So @donttrythis (the incomparable Mr. Adam Savage) tweeted to his tweeps, of which I am one, that Robert Fortner had written a fascinating article on the state of the art of speech recognition. This is a subject near and dear to my heart, although the part dearest to me (application in the medical field) was not actually addressed in the article itself.
Since this is something about which I think the average healthcare consumer knows very little and something about which I could go off on for a good long while (possibly without needing to take a breath), I decided to at least post my very truncated commentary here as well.
(I have quoted a previous commenter on the blog, but no link to a personal site was available.)
“Entrepreneurs who want to use speech recognition in a product should abandon the idea of doing it in software; if for some reason you MUST have speech-to-text functionality, it’s cheaper, easier, and more reliable to use a transcription service.”
AMEN. This country trusts thousands of its people’s lives to speech recognition every single day; the lucky ones have that text at least edited by trained medical transcriptionists, who are specialists in medical language, nuance, and deciphering and correcting the dictation errors of exhausted physicians and surgeons. The unlucky end up with a medical record that tells nothing of their personal story, does not connect the dots between their symptoms, does not allow the physician to speak in his or her natural “voice,” and is full of gibberish that could actually be putting the patient’s life at risk because it can’t tell one drug name from another or that there is no way in the world the patient with kidney problems should ever be dosed with an NSAID.
And why is this happening? Overhead, plain and simple. Transcriptionists now require more education and more experience to be paid far less than they were 10 or even 5 years ago. These are people who are working on production – a single digit cents per line – and most are doing it because they love the work, the learning, and their ability to help in some way to providing patient care. And that is one of the biggest reasons that speech recognition in healthcare is a giant detriment to our society: Computers can be trained to predict, they can compile a tremendous amount of data in order to promote better statistics by which to judge the dictator, but they can never be taught to care about the patient. They can never have the drive and ambition and COMPASSION to actually learn more about the a particular field or disease in order to be of better service to their patients.
Give me the person behind the screen who just might have some empathy for my spouse or my child who is on the operating table. Dump the big metal box.