Mental health professionals benefit from voice recognition programs

Posted on: July 19, 2013

written by

Ben Amirault

Two pilot programs have found voice recognition software can help mental health professionals enter notes into electronic health records at twice the speed of typing. The first pilot study, conducted at the South West London and St. George's Mental Health National Health Service (NHS) Trust, showed that time spent entering patient notes was reduced almost 50%. The second, conducted at the Surrey Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, showed a decrease in average typing time (51 minutes) and a significant increase in clinical contact with patients (148 minutes). Researchers also found a decrease in time spent writing case notes, risk assessments, progress notes, referral and other letters, and reports. They also observed the average turnaround time for letters or reports dropped from 6 to 7 days to just 1 to 2 days. Researchers said voice recognition software is perfect for psychiatrists, mental health professionals, and other medical professions “where electronic records are used and where high quality, detailed, contemporaneous notes are essential.” Before the advent of electronic health records, mental health professionals could keep written notes. Now that notes must be entered into the computer system, the amount of typing time has grown significantly. “When it used to be okay to have just written notes, it wasn't so bad. But now that everything needs to be typed up, it's become a lot more time consuming,” Ashma Haja Dewan Mohamed, MRCPsych, from SWLTSG in the United Kingdom, told Medscape Medical News. The mental health professionals used Dragon NaturallySpeaking software to enter their clinical notes for six weeks, after undergoing three hours of training on how to use the program. There were some drawbacks observed during the pilot studies. More time was required to edit the entries and the program didn’t work well in noisy areas. Also, single-user licensing requirements could make it a potentially expensive solution for organizations with several mental health professionals. Still benefits seem to outweigh the drawbacks. As voice recognition software becomes more advanced, it is reasonable to assume it will become more widely used by medical professionals in place of manually typing notes or dictating to a transcriptionist. In fact, voice recognition may be the key to making electronic health record systems the time-saver they were promised to be.
About Ben Amirault

Ben Amirault was formerly the marketing manager at Barton Associates' Peabody, MA headquarters. He received a B.A. in English, specializing in journalism, from the University of New Hampshire.

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