Is speech rec all it’s cracked up to be?

I wrote an op-ed piece regarding the truth about speech recognition technology (SRT) that appeared in the Oct. 10 issue of “For The Record” magazine. In case you missed it, I’m reposting it here as this week’s blog issue.

Is speech recognition technology all it’s cracked up to be?

I’m not sure. We all are employing it because we have to, but in reality it just isn’t delivering the results it should. If a medical transcription service organization (MTSO) is not embracing SRT, it’s not “staying ahead of the technology curve” or it “has its head in the sand” or it hears some other unflattering description of its market strategy.

Let me premise these remarks with the fact that our company, New England Medical Transcription, is using SRT and we do have medical transcriptionists “editing.” Nevertheless, I don’t believe it is the silver bullet that some profess it to be.

MTSOs come in all shapes and sizes but all focus on technology to some extent. If you’re not talking about your technology with potential clients, the door either isn’t opening or it gets closed fast. And if SRT is one of the technology tools in your arsenal, your staying power in the process is incrementally improved.

In addition, larger MTSOs with SRT (developed in-house or acquired) often make it their lead topic in conversations with potential clients. It must sound enticing in those sales meetings.

I just don’t believe the technology is effective enough.

The reason I say that is multifold. There are many doctors for whom SRT isn’t a good fit—a conservative estimate would be 20%.

There are poor-quality voice files—the number of these is going to vary widely depending on many factors. In these cases, you might as well transcribe the report from the get-go. There are a variety of other factors that can also have an impact on the quality of the pre-edited document.

However, SRT’s most significant drawback may be its affect on our workforce. During times like these, when economic realities are brutal, history has shown that entire industries can be wiped out by the evolution of technologies. That’s very well what may be occurring in the medical transcription industry and it’s tough to watch.

I believe one of the reasons the transcription industry is evolving is that we’re trying to use a technology that just isn’t there yet but we’re requiring our workers to use it anyway—and to make a lower salary in the process.

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2 Responses to Is speech rec all it’s cracked up to be?

  1. Sally M. says:

    I read with interest your opinion piece in For the Record magazine. I am an MT (CMT) with a small MTSO, and currently we do all straight transcription. Unfortunately, our work has dropped off dramatically for over a year now, and I have been searching for other employment. Since many of the job listings are for speech editors, I thought I’d try taking AHDI’s speech editing class to see what it was all about before I applied to any of these jobs. After taking that class and talking with fellow MTs about speech editing, specifically the pay rate as compared to straight transcription, I have made the decision to leave the field. I am not opposed to using speech recognition technology to do my job, but I am opposed to the dramatically lower pay (in many cases half the rate of straight transcription). I love medical transcription, and I am good at it. I am a model employee as well. I just cannot do this work for lower pay than what I am getting paid now, and I don’t see how I could possibly double my productivity editing speech drafts; there are simply too many variables involved that have to all fall into place to double productivity. At any rate, I appreciate the validation and points made in your editorial. I suppose the industry will always have desperate new graduates from all the various MT schools willing to do the job for next to nothing just to get their “foot in the door.”

  2. Joe Weber says:

    I fully agree that back-end speech recognition is not even close to what it’s cracked up to be. It’s alleged success has been primarily on the backs of MTs, particularly the most experienced and productive MTs. They don’t double their productivity, but they get half the per-line pay. Do the math. It’s a big-time reduction in income.

    The MTSOs need to halve the MT’s rate in order to pay for the speech-rec technology and have even a modest increase in margin. The MTs are feeling the pain now. Soon the MTSOs will feel it as well, as a result of the erosion of transcription brought about by EHRs.

    I believe there’s an answer to this threat. It’s real-time, remote EHR documentation by MTs converted into “Medical Coordinators”. Check out, for further info.


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