Does Voice Recognition Software Mean The End of Transcriptionists?

We frequently receive this question, in one form or another, from individuals considering a medical transcription career or those already training.

The simple answer to this question is no—but we wanted to help you truly understand what VR software is, how it plays into the current shift in the industry, and what it means for the future of medical transcription.

What is VR software?
VR stands for voice recognition. Voice recognition, or speech recognition, software interprets what someone is saying and translates those words into an electronic document. Essentially, a doctor speaks into a microphone or headset and the program types their words for them. MTs, who were traditionally responsible for typing that information, are seeing a shift in their roles because of this software. Rather than typing documents from scratch, they are now editing them as electronically typed documents by listening to the original dictation to make sure it matches the draft document originally transcribed by the software.

How far along is the industry in the transition?
Most transcriptionists who work for national MTSOs (Medical Transcription Service Organizations) do both straight transcription as well as editing, depending on their individual accounts. (Accounts can refer to a hospital, physician, or network/group of hospitals, clinics, and medical offices.) Even though the industry is transitioning from straight transcription to speech recognition editing, every facility is in a different phrase of that transition—and even within a facility that chooses to adopt speech recognition technology, you may have some doctors who move to speech recognition more readily.

Over time, especially with the transition to electronic medical records, more and more doctors and facilities are expected to move to speech recognition software. The doctors will become more familiar with the software, and the software companies will continue to make improvements to reduce the occurrence of errors.

How advanced is the software—can it replace MTs?
There are many different VR software companies, and some programs are more accurate than others. Many voice recognition software programs are designed to become better and better as they adapt to a particular person’s voice, accent, and speech style. Even though the software is advancing, it will never be perfect and work the same way for every single physician Each doctor has to learn to use the software, and it is more successful for certain doctors, based on how clearly and quickly they speak or the thickness of their accent/dialect.

We even have a thread on our Career Step forums titled “Today’s VR Silly” that’s grown to over 20 pages of examples of how VR software has misinterpreted what the doctor said.

Although MTs started this thread to simply share the funny things they encounter, it’s also a great reminder that, even with advancements, the software is nowhere near perfect and the need for a human set of eyes is crucial. The software can misinterpret dictated dates, names, medical words, and procedures—all of which are crucial.

Whether mistakes occur because of flaws in the software, user error on the part of the physician, background noise, or because the physician didn’t speak clearly enough or has an accent that makes it difficult for the software to interpret something correctly, errors still need to be corrected. And large-scale transitions take time. Industry-wide changes do not take place overnight, and as the industry evolves so will the role of the transcriptionist. Critical life or death medical information will never be left entirely to machines.

The role of an MT will continue to evolve with technology, just as it has in the past.  When you prove yourself as an MT with experience in as many specialties as possible, you are more marketable. The Career Step program includes so many specialties and reports from doctors with all types of accents/dialects for that very reason. The feedback we receive from employers, and the demand from those continuing to hire, proves that the training is doing its job to prepare our students well!

If you have any questions about the industry, please feel free to contact us at graduates@careerstep.com or post your comments and questions below.


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