Friday, May 14, 2010

More Vocal Software Follies

Some months ago I wrote about our new voice recognition software system for dictating medical records. Here’s a few more ways the system has been mistranslating my colleagues and I…or maybe the system knows something closer to the truth?

What the doctor said:

“The patient is subsequently discharged from the Emergency Department.”’

What it heard:

“The patient was sexually discharged from the Emergency Department.

(For the record, it’s usually the other way around. The patients may come in with one, but hopefully they don’t pick one up while here. That being said, there’s been an awful lot of canoodling in the exam rooms lately, and if the patient restrooms are large enough for wheelchair access…)

What the doctor said:

“The patient will be admitted by the Volusia hospitalist.”

(Volusia is the name of our local county, and the name of one of our hospital-based medical groups.)

What it heard:

“The patient will be admitted by the delusional hospitalist.”

(Which may or not be a true statement. He’s a new guy in town. We’ll see.)

What the doctor said:

“There are no factors noted that increase or decrease his symptoms.

What it heard:

“There are no fractures that increase or decrease any symptoms…

(I would think a fracture would influence something, wouldn’t you?)

What the doctor said:

“I evaluated the patient…”

What it heard:

“I violated the patient…”

(Again, depending on the doctor, one never knows.)

I was telling my charming and esteemed peer Dr. Tara Wilson about these miscues, and she came up with another brilliant concept. (Tara is especially esteemed because she is one of those rare physicians who will actually say “The patient is exhibiting drug-seeking behavior” on the medical record rather than push the patient off on someone else. Brilliant.) She wondered what would happen if we changed the tone of our speech to reflect the medical word being said? Maybe male physicians should raise their voices to a falsetto when we say the word “vascectomy,” or female docs ought to drop into a deep bass when they say “hysterectomy.”

That’s an experiment for next shift. Medicine is a science, after all.

(Author’s Note: I’m writing this as I sit in the communal grill area in the complex where I live. At the table in front of me is a group of college students celebrating a birthday by smoking cigars. Before they lit up, the birthday boy asked me, “Do you mind if we smoke? “It’s cool with me,” I said, “but just make sure it’s something that won’t show up on my drug screen at work.” And suddenly it was a different box of cigars being passed ‘round.)

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