Why Traditional Dictation Software For Medical Professionals Misses The Mark
Rather than completely solving for the inefficiencies of medical documentation, dictation software replaces one administrative task (typing notes) with another (editing & summarizing 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.
Despite vast organizational differences, private practices and large hospital systems alike share in the same persistent challenge that has plagued healthcare for decades: the administrative burden on physicians. 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 doctors to keep up. As it stands today, the healthcare system is set up for doctors to burnout by mid-career.
Thankfully, healthcare technologies have risen to the occasion, providing clinicians with alternative methods for managing medical documentation. One of the most common choices for medical professionals? Dictation software.
Dictation software has brought about a number of improvements to the medical documentation process. Rather than typing away at a computer, doctors are freed up to interact face-to-face with their patients – which we know to be critical for building trust and rapport. Additionally, the act of dictating rather than typing notes can save a chunk of time: for most of us, it is easier to dictate your thoughts and make edits later than to summarize your jumble of thoughts into succinct notes all at once.
Overall, however, dictation software misses the mark for medical professionals. Rather than completely solving for the inefficiencies of medical documentation, dictation software replaces one administrative task (typing notes) with another (editing & summarizing 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 for using dictation software is to dictate notes during patient appointments. This is comparable 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 impedes the natural flow of conversation. Because it is necessary to capture specific information in the appropriate format, dictation software requires that you pause frequently to repeat back the content of your conversation. No one enjoys being interviewed or feeling like just another medical ‘case’, which is why conducting patient visits in this fashion can be detrimental to patient-physician relationships.
Dictating Notes Between Appointments – The Tardiness Snowball Effect
To mitigate interruptions to patient interactions, many doctors opt to complete dictation immediately following an appointment. This is a logical workflow if a doctor truly has the time built into their schedules, but the more likely case is that time is taken away from preparing for the start of the next appointment.
This tardiness snowballs throughout the days and weeks, until ultimately doctors are 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, this dictation workflow is harmful to physicians as well. Despite the extraordinary working conditions that are commonplace in their profession, doctors are only human and as such, they require time to regroup and pause throughout the day before jumping into the next bout of (often mentally and emotionally draining) work. Rushing from appointment to appointment without a chance to come up for air puts physicians in a constant state of stress and fatigue – the building blocks of physician 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 the day’s worth of dictation for the final hours of the day following a full schedule of patient visits. While this often elongates their work day, with many physicians taking charts home with them to complete, it allows them to spend the day focusing on patient care.
The challenge with dictating the majority of your notes at the end of the day is that the passage of time and the large amount of information your brain has consumed makes your memory much more susceptible to incorrect or incomplete information.
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 you to completely offload the task of note-taking and instead focus on patient care. That solution is AI medical scribe software.
DeepScribe’s AI-powered medical scribe uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to listen into the patient physician conversation and record only the medically relevant information – parsing out small talk and filler words. It then automatically matches the given diagnosis with the appropriate ICD-10 codes and pulls all of this information into the corresponding fields of your EHR.
That means that you no longer need to make the lose-lose choice 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