- Medical speech-to-text allows practitioners to dictate their medical notes during a patient encounter instead of typing them.
- Medical speech-to-text makes your EMR more navigable, lessens your transcription burden and improves your reimbursement process.
- Medical speech-to-text is often HIPAA-compliant, with two key factors determining whether your platform handles patient information in accordance with federal law.
- This article is for practice owners and practitioners interested in obtaining medical speech-to-text technology for their practices.
Some doctors and nurse practitioners feel that typing patient notes distracts them from actually listening to their patients. But if you only listen to your patient and don't type anything in your electronic medical records (EMR) system, you'll have nothing to build a plan from or generate medical claims with later. Medical speech-to-text can bridge this gap, which is a common patient care obstacle. Learn all about it below.
What is medical speech-to-text?
Medical speech-to-text, also known as medical speech recognition (MSR), is a technology that allows you to dictate your medical notes instead of typing them. This way, if you're not a fast typer, your typing speed won't limit you in recording information during a patient encounter. As you speak, what you say will appear as text in the encounter notes within your EMR system, where MSR technology is typically housed.
Did you know? With medical speech-to-text, aka medical speech recognition, you can speak your notes and they will appear on your screen. Learn more about how to choose medical software for your practice where you can start using speech-to-text.
How is medical speech recognition used?
MSR is often available as a third-party EMR integration, though many of our reviews of the best EMR software include voice-to-text tools with their patient note-taking platform. In either case, it is simple to use: Click the record button, then say what you need to say. Since most modern laptops and tablets come with a built-in mic, you shouldn't need any extra hardware to make your MSR tools usable.
Your MSR tools will likely also come with short-key capabilities. You can use these short keys to more easily move the text you've spoken between sections of your EMR or patient notes. The result is a more streamlined note-taking experience.
MSR learns new words the more often you use your tools. This comes in handy given the heavy amount of jargon in medicine. Plus, once you correct the misspelling of a word in your notes, your MSR will know how to spell it correctly next time. As your MSR tools continuously improve, so does your note taking.
Tip: MSR tools learn new words as you say them. As your platform's vocabulary increases, so does your ease of note-taking.
The benefits of medical speech-to-text
Medical speech-to-text offers benefits for all kinds of practices, including the following:
- Less clicking through EMR interfaces. With MSR, you can simply speak your notes, then watch them fill the appropriate boxes in your EMR. This process eliminates the need to click a box before you start typing. Plus, it's not unheard of for busy practitioners to click the wrong box and wind up storing your notes in an incorrect location.
- Streamlined document handling. MSR's voice recognition is so powerful that you can use it to create, modify and sign encounter notes in one fell swoop. The same goes for electronic prescriptions or lab orders. MSR doesn't just improve your note taking – it expedites your other patient-facing work as well.
- No transcription. Before MSR, any patient notes captured on audio had to be recorded, then painstakingly transcribed to text. The process was tedious, lengthy and error-prone. MSR eliminates this obstacle. Medical speech-to-text is especially beneficial if a patient is transferring to another practice and you need to make your notes legible to new practitioners.
- Far fewer spelling errors. As your MSR platform learns, it ensures that all your notes hit the page with the exact words you desire. Think of it as a real-time spellcheck. Though it's always smart to proofread your notes, you can safely assume that what you've said is indeed what appears in your EMR.
- More reimbursement. Any experienced doctor or nurse practitioner knows that typing notes is a conduit to patient charts filled with shorthand. The problem is, your shorthand might not mean much to anyone who isn't you. This confusion can prove problematic when you file claims with payers: How can you be reimbursed when payers don't know what your notes mean? Since medical speech-to-text results in notes that are fully written out, it eliminates this issue.
FYI: MSR isn't just convenient. Since it enters your medical notes as full words instead of shorthand, it virtually eliminates the need to revise your notes before filing claims.
- More hands-on patient care. If you're typing your notes, you're probably not looking at the patient. If you're recording them for medical speech-to-text, you can have more of an actual conversation with the patient. You can even capture the patient's actual words without having to type your own notes into your EMR. In other words, MSR doesn't just streamline your experience with the patient – it streamlines the patient's experience with you too.
Is medical speech-to-text HIPAA-compliant?
Two factors determine whether your medical speech-to-text tool is HIPAA-compliant:
- The provider's HIPAA compliance. A real-life example best explains this condition of HIPAA compliance. In late 2019, Amazon introduced a medical speech-to-text tool, and since Amazon Web Services (AWS) is HIPAA-eligible, so is its MSR platform.
- The existence of a business associate agreement (BAA). Although HIPAA-eligible services are generally secure and protect connected devices, a BAA is an indicator that your dictated notes are as safe as possible. You can obtain a BAA by contacting the entity that oversees your MSR's HIPAA eligibility. To use the Amazon example, you would contact an AWS representative to request a BAA. Once you have your BAA, you can use Amazon's MSR without any worries about HIPAA compliance.
Medical speech-to-text and EMR software
As mentioned earlier, several standalone medical speech-to-text programs integrate into leading EMR platforms. However, the best EMR platforms come with their own MSR tools. Examples include our athenahealth review, which includes MSR as part of its athenaClinicals EMR. So do the highest three EMR plan tiers in our DrChrono review and every EMR package mentioned in our AdvancedMD review.
All this being said, don't mistake the importance of medical speech-to-text for a make-or-break EMR feature. A great EMR platform doesn't have to have MSR to meet your needs, and you can probably add MSR with an integration. The most important features of EMR platforms are tools for charting and note taking, customizability, e-prescribing and labs, interoperability, and telehealth.