Doctors Without Wires

Voice-recognition software lets health-care providers transcribe notes wirelessly, saving time and money
There's something quaint about the way Dr. Matthew Doppelt used to take electronic notes. The solo practitioner at South Eastern Dermatology Consultants P.A. in Knoxville, Tenn., used to speak into a digital recorder, upload the files, and send them to a transcription service. Then he'd cough up $1,600 a month for next-day service to get Word files of the reports.

Things changed last year when Doppelt got a wireless Toshiba M200 tablet PC running Dragon NaturallySpeaking Medical voice-recognition software from Nuance Communications Inc., an app he bought for less than $1,000. Now his dictation is electronically transcribed immediately as text. Doppelt can store those reports in patients' electronic medical records, using software from eClinicalWorks to manage those records.

Doppelt isn't alone in making this change. Medical functions that were commonly outsourced are increasingly being automated. Not only that, but in medical practices, where wireless networks are becoming important tools for clinical applications such as writing electronic prescriptions, the ability to transcribe notes using wireless devices is becoming critical. Other providers of voice-recognition dictation products include Philips and IBM.

A wireless tablet PC helps Dr. Matthew Doppelt keep more-accurate notes about his patients.

A wireless tablet PC helps Dr. Matthew Doppelt keep more-accurate notes about his patients.

At Mount Kisco Medical Group P.C., a multispecialty practice in Mount Kisco, N.Y., plans are in place for eight radiologists by year's end to use Dictaphone Corp.'s EXSpeech voice-recognition software, via the Dictaphone iChart hosted service, to have dictated notes immediately converted to text. The practice now transmits dictation to the service over phones--either landline or cellular--to be transcribed and sent back as Word files the next day. The automated system will reduce the cost of turning notes into electronic files by about two-thirds, says Dr. Abe Levy, medical director and chief quality officer at Mount Kisco.

Most doctors in the practice are still using a voice-capture box in conjunction with hard-wired phones in their offices to enter this dictation. But more than a dozen physicians have begun using their cell phones, Levy says.

Doppelt sings the praises of wireless voice recognition for dictation, especially when has to update a referring physician. "By the time the patient is dressed and ready to leave the office," he says, "I've already gotten my notes done and a letter written to send to the referring physician immediately."

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