One of the biggest fears medical transcriptionists have for their careers relates to voice recognition software. And indeed, some doctors are using it to transcribe their reports. But voice recognition is far from reliable enough to take over all that a good medical transcriptionist can do.

Current software just isn’t up to the job. Medical reports need an exceptional degree of accuracy that is incredibly difficult for a machine to match. It goes beyond figuring out which word or drug the physician said, and includes issues such as accurate punctuation.

When you think about words that might challenge a voice recognition software, you could think of too, to and two, or their and they’re but these aren’t even the biggest problems. Many drugs have similar names, sometimes just because you’re talking brand name versus generic, but other times the two drugs aren’t related. Then there are words that can run together, such as "you’re in" versus "urine".

The learning curve is a big part of what will keep many doctors from using software. It takes time to train the software to your voice, as well as to train yourself to speak slowly enough. I can tell you from personal experience that many doctors dictate their notes for transcription at an incredibly fast rate of speech. Many will simply be unwilling to slow down so that a computer can do the work.

And of course then the work would still need to be proofread. The extra work will not be of interest to many doctors.

However, some medical transcriptionists have tried voice recognition software too. It can work for transcriptionists, rather than against. The added step of needing to proofread is not always too much of a burden. But it can be challenging to speak as you listen. This technology is certainly not for all medical transcriptionists.

Voice recognition does better in other areas. My father loves using ViaVoice as he works on his computer, strongly preferring it to Dragon NaturallySpeaking. It’s a way to put less strain on his wrists as he works on the computer.

Then there are the formatting and punctuation issues. Once again, obvious to a transcriptionist, not so clear to a computer.

People have been worried about voice recognition destroying the medical transcription industry for at least a decade. The changes are happening so slowly that you can pretty much rely on it taking a very long time for the software to reach a point where it could be a danger.

But there is one possible combination in which doctors dictate using voice recognition software, and transcriptionists clean it up. Faster for each, and cheaper per report for the doctor. It’s a distinct possibility that would allow doctors to take advantage of the technology without adding too much to their own workloads.

In other words, going through with getting your medical transcription education isn’t too bad an idea. The jobs should hang around for a long time yet.