By Kate Madden Yee, AuntMinnie.com staff writer

November 7, 2013 -- Using speech recognition software improved report turnaround time 24-fold in a community radiology practice, according to a new study published online in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

The use of speech recognition software has been shown to improve radiology report turnaround times, but it has mostly been studied at large academic centers, not in community-based practices, wrote lead author Dr. Luciano Prevedello, from Brigham and Women's Hospital, and colleagues.

There's been an assumption that community hospital settings don't require quick report turnaround. However, a lack of timely reports for patients in lower acuity settings may be a barrier to the coordination of care.

"If report turnaround time is not optimized in the community setting, patients may be transferred with incomplete medical records," the group wrote. "This approach can be detrimental to continuity of care during the patient hand off [between the transferring and receiving institutions]."

Prevedello's team investigated whether it was possible to significantly reduce radiology report turnaround time in a community-based hospital practice, without negatively affecting radiologist productivity. The study was based on the implementation of speech recognition software at a 150-bed community hospital between May and July 2011.

The researchers assessed radiology report turnaround time and radiologist productivity five months before and after implementation. Turnaround time was defined as the elapsed time between image acquisition and signature of the final radiology report (JACR, October 23, 2013).

Median turnaround time decreased from 24 hours to one hour after the speech recognition software was implemented, the group found. The 80th percentile of report turnaround times decreased sixfold, from 60 hours to 10 hours, and the 95th percentile decreased fivefold, from 165 hours to 33 hours.

"Speech recognition software can be successfully implemented in a community hospital that has no radiology trainees, and its implementation yields substantial, multifold improvements in radiology report turnaround time," Prevedello and colleagues wrote. "These improvements can be achieved rapidly and without significant adverse impact on radiologist productivity."

What makes a speech recognition software program successful? Planning -- and a committed leader, according to the group. The effort at Brigham and Women's Hospital was thoroughly planned, and it was supported by a physician leader and put into place by an IT team.

"During implementation, both the physician champion and the IT team were readily available in the department to actively train, coach, and encourage the use of the application," the authors wrote. "Any issue that arose received a prompt response so that it could be resolved."


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