Friday, September 14, 2007

Speech Recognition: The Brutal Facts

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that the sales pitch for speech recognition is based on a highly-idealized scenario. In real life:

  • Many physicians are computer illiterate. That's why they hire secretaries and office support staff.

  • Many physicians are overworked, overstressed, and have little patience. Their attention span is rarely long enough to learn a complex new computer program while trying to respond to the pressures of staying in practice.

  • Many physicians are constantly on the run. At different times they may be required to dictate from home, from the office, or from a variety of locations in multiple hospitals. With a digital dictation system, they can use any touch-tone telephone. With a computerized voice recognition system, they must sit directly in front of a specific computer and be able to monitor what is happening on the screen.

  • Few physicians dictate in the kind of neatly-measured speech required by a voice recognition system. They speed up, slow down, and frequently mumble. They make plenty of false starts and often must correct themselves. Fully-formed, coherent sentences are rare.

  • A physician's job description has a lot more to do with patient care than glorified word processing. He earns his money by seeing patients, not by working with a word-processing program.

  • Most physicians have terrible language skills. That's why they depend on the talents of medical language specialists to clear up their grammar, correct their mistakes, and make sure their reports conform to appropriate standards of patient documentation.

[Consciousness Raising Exercise #37]

Next: Time For A Reality Check

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