Yes, adding voice recognition technology can save healthcare organizations a significant amount on transcription costs. However, physicians who are successfully using voice solutions say that the best reason to use voice is to help radiologists provide better service.
Add voice recognition “to allow radiologists to take ownership of their reports,” says John Floyd, MD, of Radiology Consultants of Iowa in Cedar Rapids. The practice plus a network of rural hospitals and an outpatient imaging center has been using MedQuist’s SpeechQ for Radiology for several months. The technology means the radiologist has control over the content and accuracy of a report as well as when it gets delivered to other care providers. “The most impressive thing it can do is get your reports into the hands of clinicians dramatically faster,” he says. And for many physicians trying to stay ahead in a competitive radiology market, that rapid turnaround is crucial.
Floyd also identifies other benefits of voice recognition that have little do with the bottom line. One example is piece of mind since he knows that all his work is done when he leaves his office at the end of a day. The reports are done so there are no questions and no reason for his partners to call him to follow up. Plus, radiologists within a healthcare organization with a geographically scattered PACS can get anywhere, anytime access. That’s another reason to add voice, says Floyd. “Probably the last reason to do it is to save money.”
Customer service is the key
Andrew Litt, MD, vice chairman of radiology at New York University Medical Center, agrees that money isn’t the object. “People initially think of the ability to save on transcription [costs]. That’s useful and important, but the key thing is customer service.” Litt says that the ability to have a report ready the minute he finishes looking at the images and to get that report to another physician via any method means that he is providing the best service he can. “That’s what we have to do if we want to be competitive as radiology providers.” And, if getting those reports to other physicians more quickly means a patient can leave the hospital or begin treatment sooner, Litt is satisfied.
He also appreciates the reduction in the number of calls he now gets from other physicians. They have stopped calling looking for reports – which had meant lost time for Litt and other radiologists having to look up studies to recall their findings.
Litt’s radiology department recently began implementing Commissure’s RadWhere voice recognition system, replacing another vendor’s solution. He’s been impressed with gains in the accuracy of the actual recognition as well as new features available. New York University Medical Center is one of only three initial installs for the small company but that doesn’t concern Litt. “Even though the company is new, their people have been doing this for a long time. Nobody knows how to do this better,” he says. He also cites the fact that working with a small company means avoiding a bureaucracy. “We’re dealing with all the key people all the time.”
Since the department had already been using voice recognition for several years, implementation of the basic system has been relatively easy for the 150 staff members. The department is divided by body sections so a couple of groups got started with it first. “Changing over 150 people at once was too big of a challenge,” Litt says. Implementing the department in thirds gives everyone time to get familiar with the system and address issues such as any problems recognizing certain words and terms specific to a group. The second third of employees began using the system on February 1st and the last third will begin on March 1st. Litt expects the department to roll out RadWhere’s advanced features, such as templates and macros, over the next nine months.
Leaving the physicians out
Borgess Medical Center took a different tack in implementing speech recognition. Rather than seeking a physician champion for the technology, the goal was minimal impact on physicians. The plan at the 424-bed teaching hospital in Kalamazoo, Mich., was to increase the productivity of the transcription department, increase their turnaround time and reduce costs for outsourced transcription.
The transcription department and the IT team worked together to evaluate backend systems. They decided to implement Dolbey and Company’s Fusion Text powered by SpeechMagic from Philips after seeing it