Transcription Technology Watch

This is the first in a series of quarterly articles that will focus on technologies relevant to medical transcription. Hopefully, maybe even those MTs who are techno-phobic will find some of the topics enlightening, stimulating and/or of value in making career decisions. But maybe not. To challenge that hope, I’ve started off with everyone’s favorite technology: speech recognition. If you want to really stimulate a transcriptionist, just say “speech recognition.” Or, better yet, assert that “speech recognition will forever change the process of converting physicians’ thoughts and utterances into text.” Then run for cover.

Every transcriptionist out there has heard some form of that assertion. Their reactions range from dismissal to fear to anger. So what’s the truth? What does the future hold? Well, at some point in the future, there will be no medical transcription. Physicians will dictate into a PC or portable device; their speech will be converted to text; and the dictator will make any necessary corrections to finalize the report. No transcription expense. No transcription delay. But that future is at least 3 years off. Just kidding. It’s way more than that. However, there is a future closer than that, related to speech recognition, which has some major implications for this industry.

Doctors hate doing anything that they believe is below their stature or slows down their ability to generate revenue. So we will not see “front-end” recognition-where they correct their own mistakes as described above-in most environments for many years. But there’s a new game in town. It’s called “back-end” speech recognition. Physicians don’t change a thing in their dictation behavior. They continue babbling into telephones or some other dictation device just like they always have. But their voice files are now run through a server-based recognition engine, a draft is produced, and a medical editor corrects the errors both in recognition and dictation.

This technology is truly beginning to get some traction. Physicians love innovation, but they hate change. So this suits them just fine. In fact, they typically don’t even know it’s going on. The goal of back-end speech recognition is to at least double the productivity of transcriptionists. And to do it for about a penny a line. Most implementations are not quite there yet. Speech recognition talk has always been ahead of speech recognition technology. Nonetheless the handwriting is on the wall. This technology will begin to transform transcription in the coming years. So it seems wise for MTs to learn more about it and perhaps even to embrace it.if they like what they learn.

Currently, it is prohibitively expensive for an independent transcriptionist or small transcription company to purchase a recognition server. However, there are a number of ASPs popping up, which charge by the line to produce a draft. I could tell you a lot more groovy stuff about this rather exciting technology, but I’m just about out of my allotted space. So tune in next quarter for the second Watch article, which will explain more about how it works and what it means for medical transcriptionists. Unless, of course, I feel like writing about something else.

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