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Open Access Research article

Speech recognition software and electronic psychiatric progress notes: physicians' ratings and preferences

Yaron D Derman1, Tamara Arenovich2 and John Strauss1*

Author Affiliations

1 Information Management Group, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 1001 Queen St. West, Toronto, Ontario, M6J 1H4, Canada

2 Biostatistical Consulting Service, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 33 Russell St., Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3M1, Canada

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2010, 10:44  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-10-44

Published: 25 August 2010



The context of the current study was mandatory adoption of electronic clinical documentation within a large mental health care organization. Psychiatric electronic documentation has unique needs by the nature of dense narrative content. Our goal was to determine if speech recognition (SR) would ease the creation of electronic progress note (ePN) documents by physicians at our institution.


Subjects: Twelve physicians had access to SR software on their computers for a period of four weeks to create ePN. Measurements: We examined SR software in relation to its perceived usability, data entry time savings, impact on the quality of care and quality of documentation, and the impact on clinical and administrative workflow, as compared to existing methods for data entry. Data analysis: A series of Wilcoxon signed rank tests were used to compare pre- and post-SR measures. A qualitative study design was used.


Six of twelve participants completing the study favoured the use of SR (five with SR alone plus one with SR via hand-held digital recorder) for creating electronic progress notes over their existing mode of data entry. There was no clear perceived benefit from SR in terms of data entry time savings, quality of care, quality of documentation, or impact on clinical and administrative workflow.


Although our findings are mixed, SR may be a technology with some promise for mental health documentation. Future investigations of this nature should use more participants, a broader range of document types, and compare front- and back-end SR methods.