Use of voice recognition software is under consideration by medical office administrators nationally. Administrators have long searched for alternatives to the expense, error rate, and record-completion delays associated with conventional transcription. It is no wonder that, with the recent advances in voice recognition software, medical transciptionists are looking at this emerging technology as a powerful way of accomplishing essential record-keeping tasks.
This report investigates four of the leading voice recognition applications to determine whether this technology has become a practical option and to determine which application is the best choice. And so that this report and further study of the software can be better understood, an introduction to the subject of voice recognition software follows.
Introduction to Voice Recognition Technology
Several different voice recognition products currently exist in the marketplace, and viable choices are greater in number than they were only a few years ago. Rapid changes have been fueled by the
ever-increasing power and plummeting prices of desktop systems. Though room for improvement still exists, accuracy has advanced tremendously in a stunningly short time.
Brief history. The first software-only dictation product for PC's, Dragon Systems' DragonDictate for Windows 1.0, using discrete speech recognition technology, was released in 1994. Discrete speech is a slow, unnatural means of dictation, requiring a pause after each and every word . Two years later, IBM introduced the first continuous speech recognition software, its MedSpeak/Radiology. These systems often had five-figure price tags and required very expensive PCs. Continuous speech technology allows its users to speak naturally and conversationally, relieving much of the tedium of discrete speech dictation .
Dragon Systems made an enormous stride in June, 1997, when it released NaturallySpeaking, the first general-purpose continuous speech software program. Much more affordable than earlier programs, it brought the realm of continuous speech recognition to a much wider range of users. Two months later, IBM released its competing continuous speech software, ViaVoice .
Stringent demands. Much is demanded of speech recognition programs. Accuracy is critical, and speed is essential to any effective program. Added to these challenges are the enormous variance that exists among individual human speech patterns, pitch, rate, and inflection. These variations are an extraordinary test of the flexibility of any program. Voice recognition follows these steps:
Spoken words enter a microphone.
Audio is processed by the computer's sound card.
The software discriminates between lower-frequency vowels and higher-frequency consonants and compares the results with phonemes, the smallest building blocks of speech. The software then compares results to groups of phonemes, and then to actual words, determining the most likely match.
Contextual information is simultaneously processed in order to more accurately predict words that are most likely to be used next, such as the correct choice out of a selection of homonyms such as merry, marry, and Mary.
Selected words are arranged in the most probable sentence combinations.
The sentence is transferred to a word processing application . Power devourers. With all of the complex selections and tremendous flexibility demanded of voice recognition software, it is small wonder that considerable computer muscle is required to run these programs. To take fullest advantage of current speech recognition programs, a PC with a minimum of a 300 MHz Pentium II processor is recommended. A separate 16-bit SoundBlaster-compatible card is also advisable, because the sound cards that are bundled as part of a PC's motherboard can produce inferior results with voice recognition software .