Anyone who has tried dictating a letter straight into a desktop computer using speech recognition software knows the frustration of fixing garbled words. Some stick with it and achieve accuracy that makes speech recognition worth the effort. For others, editing mistakes remains too time-consuming, and the software sits idle.

Still, an increasing number of radiology facilities are giving real-time speech recognition a try, aided by newer, more accurate software and radiology’s smaller, specialized vocabulary. Everyone seems to agree that dictating reports directly to text speeds report turnaround time and saves money. While some radiologists are embracing the change, others say speech recognition advantages do not outweigh the cost to radiologists.

The use of speech recognition technology will more than double in the next two years, climbing from 20 percent to 46 percent, according to the 13th annual Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS of Chicago, Ill.) Leadership Survey of 355 information technology executives sponsored by Superior Consultant Co. Inc. (Southfield, Mich.).

Manufacturers say the market is already growing quickly. Now that the benefits of speech recognition are documented, people are becoming more interested and sales are beginning to take off. Manufacturers estimate that 400 to 500 facilities in the United States are using speech recognition, or about 5 percent of the market. Manufacturers also say the global market, particularly in Europe and Asia, is growing quickly as well, and products are available in most European languages.

Bringing speech recognition technology to radiology facilities is a melding of a number of products. One component is the speech engine, which captures the sound of the voice and translates it to text. It learns to adjust to individual pronunciation so a radiologist from Boston and a radiologist from Dallas can both be understood. The engine uses a specific vocabulary from which it recognizes words and analysis algorithms that process the context of words so that it knows when a colon is the punctuation symbol and when it is the organ.

Please refer to the November 2002 issue for the complete story. For information on article reprints, contact Martin St. Denis