Voice recognition software is promoted to improve clinician efficiency and decrease overall costs. Our aim was to compare its efficiency against the traditional method of dictation and typing in an older people's community mental health team. We compared the time taken to dictate, edit and type letters, and the total number of days required to send them out after seeing the patient, using the two methods. We also correlated the time taken by one doctor to dictate and edit clinic letters with the actual days on which they were dictated.
The voice recognition system reduced the time taken to turn around clinic letters but at the cost of increased doctor's time being spent on dictating and editing the letters. We found no increase in efficiency with experience.
The benefits of faster letter production may be outweighed by the effect of the extra time spent by clinicians to the detriment of their other commitments. The narrative form of psychiatry letters may make them less suited to computer transcription than those in other specialties.
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