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The pros and cons of implementing PACS and speech recognition systems

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The installation and implementation of a hospitalwide image management system and a speech recognition dictation system has had a dramatic and positive impact on radiology report turnaround times at Elmhurst Hospital Center, a 543-bed municipal teaching hospital located in New York City's Borough of Queens. The "lost film" problem has been eliminated. As a result, the percentage of unreported examinations has dropped from 25% to less than 1%. These performance improvements have significantly benefited the entire medical staff. With the successful implementation of a HL-7 standards-based radiology information system (RIS), a speech recognition dictation system, around-the-clock staffing of Board Certified radiologists, and a picture archiving and communication system (PACS), report turnaround time improved dramatically. Eighty-six percent of all examinations now are reported formally within a 12-hour period compared with a 3% average before implementation of the changes. However, with the use of the PACS and speech recognition technologies, new problems have arisen within the radiology department. These technologies, designed to enhance communications capabilities, also have significantly reduced the amount of clinician/radiologist dialogue. Easy and rapid access to patient images and reports has had a detrimental effect on that face-to-face consultations with clinicians, which were commonplace before PACS, and now have almost completely disappeared. The radiologist/clinician interchanges, which occurred frequently before a final report was dictated, often resulted in better understanding of the clinical problem and, hence, a more meaningful final report. Although a conferencing feature to facilitate communication exists within the PACS, it is not utilized by the clinicians. The dilemma is that as information about patients is made more available to the hospital staff, less information is provided about patients to the radiologists. Although the speech recognition system benefits the hospital, its staff, and the patients served by reducing clinician time awaiting a diagnostic report and reducing clinic and emergency room waiting time by the patients themselves, it does not necessarily benefit the radiologists who use it. Speech recognition dictation systems slow down the individual productivity of the radiologists' dictation process by at least 25%. Radiologists are assuming the role of transcriptionists as well as diagnosticians. Mistakes occur that would not with the use of a traditional dictation system and professional transcriptionists.

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Hayt, D., Alexander, S. The pros and cons of implementing PACS and speech recognition systems . J Digit Imaging 14, 149–157 (2001).

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