Physicians Rediscovering Dictation Thanks to Voice Technology Upgrades

marsha_taicher-smBy Marsha Taicher, VP of North America, Speech Processing Solutions

With 78 percent of physician practices and 59 percent of hospitals adopting some form of electronic health record (EHR) system, physicians today may not be dictating their notes as much as they used to in the days of paper charts. In EHR-equipped settings, many physicians have switched their documentation methods to typing on a keyboard, tapping a screen, or clicking a mouse, which some find to be more efficient and cost-effective than maintaining their previous dictation-driven workflow.

Many physicians, however, still prefer to dictate. A 2014 survey of physicians from a large academic medical center found that nearly 45 percent rated dictation and related technology to be “important” or “critical” for creating documentation. While another study found physicians who had been using typical EHR documentation methods returned to dictation and handwriting after less than a year.

Healthcare organizations that have not explored dictation devices or other types of voice technology in recent years may be surprised about what they find. The voice technology hardware and software available today are not only compatible, but in many instances, improve EHR-driven workflows by helping physicians increase productivity and efficiency. In addition, as newer value-based payment contracts and regulations, such as ICD-10, require highly detailed patient information to be captured in EHRs and claims, voice technology can play a key role in successfully meeting industry standards.

Generating meaningful documentation
For example, ICD-10-CM contains 68,000 codes compared to ICD-9-CM’s 13,000 codes. This means physicians will need to document their patient encounters with enough detail so billing and other revenue cycle staff can accurately submit and defend claims. The more granular detail captured in the documentation is also necessary so organizations can analyze care quality among populations of patients with chronic conditions, helping prevent costly hospitalizations and emergency department visits. With an EHR, this enhanced specificity may require physicians to spend more time typing, tapping or clicking on a computer or tablet. Or physicians could deliver that level of detail simply by speaking into a modern dictation microphone paired with speech recognition software.

A USB dictation microphone designed for these healthcare environments offers the ease-of-use and patient friendliness of traditional dictation methods, but with added features. When integrated with a healthcare organization’s EHR system, newer microphones allow physicians to navigate EHR templates using a trackball and buttons ergonomically positioned on the device. This type of advanced microphone design promotes faster data entry since people can typically speak seven times faster than they can talk, which also means the physician will be less focused on a computer monitor or keyboard.

Speech recognition and cloud-based transcription increasingly popular
Speech recognition software integrated with an advanced dictation microphone is proving to be increasingly popular for EHR-equipped healthcare organizations, but so are transcription services that leverage the convenience of cloud-based servers to improve efficiency.

To ensure speech recognition software accuracy, the microphone technology within the device must be designed to prevent sound distortions from being captured. A microphone, for instance, that is decoupled from the device’s housing and that includes a fleece inserted above and below the microphone capsule would filter distortions such as pop and hiss noise, and would block other distracting touch, click, air or structure-borne sounds so that the physician’s voice is clear and easily understandable by the speech recognition software.

As physicians watch their words being transcribed automatically with the software, the intuitively positioned trackball and buttons on the microphone would allow them to edit their observations, comments and other dictation as necessary without requiring them to place the microphone down.

Patient care and financial benefits
Cloud-based services, however, is just one of the many recent advancements that voice technology has leveraged to promote higher quality patient care and reduce costs for healthcare organizations. Allowing physicians to use familiar, natural documentation methods, such as dictation, can contribute to greater productivity and, as described earlier, encourages expanded, precise detail for accurate claims under ICD-10.

In an era where patient satisfaction and engagement directly impacts a hospital’s bottom line, dictation facilitates more face-to-face communication between physician and patient, resulting in higher satisfaction. In addition, when physicians can dictate their precise treatment plan, patients can return home with useful, personalized recommendations from their provider, promoting greater satisfaction and engagement.

As the remaining healthcare organizations transition from paper to EHRs, physicians who prefer dictation do not have to abandon the documentation methods that have served them well over the years. By adopting and integrating modern voice technology with their EHR system, physicians can combine the power of their own voice with the incredible data capture and management capabilities of EHRs to improve patient care quality and practice more efficiently.

About the author: Marsha Taicher is VP and Sales Director of North America at Speech Processing Solutions, the manufacturer of Philips dictation solutions.