Strictly Speaking, Voice Recognition Technology Works

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media , May 1, 2012

If you want resource-intensive voice recognition software, get ready to roll out current PC hardware if what you have is aged. Arslani recommends PCs with 2 gigabytes of RAM minimum, even better with 4 gigabytes. A 100 megabit-per-second local area network is a must. Advocate Illinois Masonic opted for 1 gigabit-per-second for each desktop. These days, that level of throughput doesn't cost a lot more.

Part of what triggered my interest in voice recognition was the popular column I wrote last week on whether EMRs are killing the traditional narrative. We're at a dangerous point in EMR adoption where the prevalence of older point-and-click EMR interfaces provide digitized healthcare—but at the cost of a lost narration and even repetitive globs of text cut-and-pasted into EMRs by rushed physicians.

Talking to Arslani, I see hope that incorporating voice recognition into the solution can help with both problems. Physicians freed from the keyboard leave demonstrably richer and lengthier notes in EMRs. And the narrative flow, though different than what came before on paper, isn't lost, just evolved.

Still, even after 50 years, voice recognition is in its early days. Systems still have to be trained and are best used with the kind of templates described here. The current state of the art doesn't mean we can leave voice mails that some computer will understand. So more work remains. It will be interesting to see where voice recognition is in another few years, in healthcare and in society in general.

Scott Mace is senior technology editor at HealthLeaders Media.
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