In May 2014, Stephen Hanson, PA-C wrote a blog post for Physicians Practice about the pros and cons of speech recognition and EHRs. After discussing how medical grade dictation affects the ease, accuracy and confidentiality of EHRs, Hanson concludes that “The jury is still out as to whether this will assist in the full implementation of EHRs among less tech savvy physicians and other providers. I believe, however, that this is the right step forward and will ease the transition for many.”

Three years later the jury is still out, but there’s mounting evidence that automating medical dictation can improve clinical documentation, EHR use, and provider workflows.

EHR adoption in the US has been swift, but it has also created headaches for many physicians who spend more time documenting care an less time providing it. Especially for doctors who aren’t fast at typing, entering the patient narrative into an EHR can represent a major time sink.

Many physicians have turned to voice recordings as a solution, sending off their clinical notes for remote transcription. But voice recognition technology can now automate this process nearly instantly, removing the costs of manual transcription and the inevitable lag in data entry. As EHRs have started offering integrated dictation capabilities, technology is easing the growing pains of widespread EHR adoption.

The most notorious example of voice recognition technology is Nuance’s Dragon software, which uses cloud-based speech recognition to capture the patient story directly in the EHR. As Nuance points out, 88 percent of doctors are stressed and frustrated by the time spent on clinical documentation and how it cuts into patient care. Nuance’s cloud-based dictation software is one solution, capturing clinical information three times faster than typing on a computer.

The major benefit of automating medical dictation is that it can improve clinical workflow and increase EHR adoption. A 2016 study found that using voice recognition to transcribe dictation “has the potential to reduce the time required for documentation and improve usability while maintaining documentation quality.” For cardiologists, standard documentation approaches took an average of 16.9 minutes, which was reduced to just 5.2 minutes using voice recognition software.

By improving provider workflow and easing EHR adoption, dictation can improve clinical documentation, which is more important than ever with the move to value-based payment models. As healthcare reform shifts the focus toward better quality outcomes for patients and value-based payment, clinical documentation improvement (CDI) isn’t just good for patients – it also improves financial integrity, compliance and reimbursement.

As a recent EHR Intelligence article put it, “CDI is a key step in dramatically improving operational efficiency in healthcare organizations.” The solution is not only automated dictation, but mobile dictation. Nuance paints a vision for this new type of medical note taking: “Your patient’s story doesn’t have to be captured at your workstation. It can begin during the exam, get amended in your office and finished in a conference room.”

Automating dictation allows physicians to add notes in a manner consistent with their workflow, which can foster greater EHR adoption and improve patient care. But voice recognition technology is also an important part of the solution for healthcare providers responding to new value-based payment systems. As Nuance puts it bluntly, “You are measured on the care you document, not the care you deliver.”