Why Traditional Dictation Software For Medical Professionals Misses The Mark

Despite vast operational differences, private practices and large hospital systems alike share in the same persistent challenge that has plagued healthcare for decades: the impact and burden of administrative tasks on clinicians. Since the dawn of the EHR, the demand for medical documentation has grown exponentially – and since the number of hours in a work day have not doubled and tripled along with it, there is no way for clinicians to keep up. As it stands today, the healthcare system is set up for doctors to burnout by mid-career. In response, many care providers looking to reduce their administrative load have adopted dictation software.

Dictation software has brought about a number of improvements to the medical documentation process. Rather than typing away at a computer, doctors can interact face-to-face with patients – which we know to be critical for building trust and rapport. Additionally, the act of dictating rather than typing notes can save providers a chunk of time and, for many clinicians, it’s much easier to dictate thoughts and make edits later than to summarize encounters and produce succinct notes all at once.

Overall, however, dictation software misses the mark for medical professionals and fails to meet their acute needs. Rather than completely solving for the inefficiencies of medical documentation, dictation software replaces one administrative task (typing notes) with another (dictation). While this may save some clinicians a bit of time, many still find themselves making the choice between efficiency and patient care. Here’s why:

Dictating Notes In-Appointment Interrupts Natural Conversation

The most time efficient workflow and most sure-fire way to ensure documentation accuracy through dictation software is to dictate notes during patient appointments. While studies show this method likely leads to more accurate documentation, the process is notably similar to taking notes during an appointment, but with the added bonus of increased face-to-face interactions with patients. 

The challenge with in-appointment dictation is that it disrupts the natural flow of a clinical conversation. Because it is often necessary to capture specific medical information in the appropriate format, dictation software frequently requires users to pause and repeat information gleaned from the conversation. Patient visits conducted in this fashion can feel impersonal and be detrimental to patient-clinician relationships, and leave patients feeling unheard or unimportant.

Dictating Notes Between Appointments – The Tardiness Snowball Effect

To mitigate interruptions to patient interactions, many providers opt to dictate their encounters immediately following an appointment. This is a logical workflow if a provider can truly build this time into their schedules, but often that time conflicts with preparation or promptness for the next appointment.

Repeated tardiness snowballs throughout the days and weeks, until ultimately providers may be forced to cut down on patient volume or suffer the business consequences of dissatisfied patients.

It should also be noted that beyond the consequences to patients, using dictation software and its accompanying workflows can be harmful to clinicians as well. Dictation software for medical professionals, despite its intentions, often creates more draining work for providers who already work in a field that can be mentally and emotionally draining on its own. Dictating notes between sessions doesn’t give providers time to regroup and pause throughout the workday, instead, it forces them to rush from appointment to appointment without a chance to come up for air. This process is tiring, and can force providers into a constant state of stress and fatigue — the foundational building blocks of clinician burnout.

Recommended Reading: Physician Burnout – Causes, Mechanisms, Consequences, & Solutions

Dictating Notes At The End of The Day Leads To Cognitive Overload

The third most common workflow for dictation software has its own unique set of drawbacks. To give patients their full time and attention, many doctors will leave all of their dictation for the end of the day following a full schedule of patient visits, either in clinic or after hours. While this almost always elongates the work day, it does allow clinicians to spend the day focusing more intently on patient care.

The challenge with dictating notes at the end of the day, however, is that it forces clinicians to recall the minute details of each patient encounter they ingested and processed throughout the day. This method often leads to inaccurate or incomplete documentation, often negating the positive impact their physical attentiveness during the visit may have had on the patient.

This is because task completion, such as recalling the information needed to fill out patient charts, relies on the successful transfer of sensory information from working to long-term memory. And working memory has a cognitive load — or threshold of information — that can be stored at a given time before it is impressed upon the neural networks of long-term memory. After a full day of seeing patients, clinicians have likely exceeded this threshold, entering into a state of cognitive overload in which key details and information may be lost from memory for good.

A More Comprehensive Solution Exists

Fortunately, dictation software is not the only technology that can help lighten the administrative burden on medical professionals. In fact, a smarter and more automated alternative exists that allows clinicians to completely offload the task of documentation and charting and instead focus entirely on patient care - without any after hours stress. That solution is AI medical scribe software.

DeepScribe’s AI-powered medical scribe captures the patient-clinician conversation in real time and extracts only the medically relevant information from the visit. It then uses that information to generate a unique note before automatically matching the note into the corresponding fields of a clinician's EHR. 

That means that clinicians no longer need to make the lose-lose decision between time efficiency or quality patient care. With DeepScribe, you can choose both.

Recommended Reading: Medical Scribe Software Gives Physicians Hours Back In Their Day – Here’s How They Are Spending It

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