Let’s cover the definitions first. Front-end speech recognition is a particularly attractive feature for physicians who prefer to look after the full report generation process. Text is generated on-screen from their dictations in real-time, allowing physicians to edit and finalize documents themselves.
When implemented as a back-end layer, the system is fully transparent to physicians, who may not even be aware that speech recognition technology is being used. Completed dictations are automatically processed by the speech recognition server in the background and the Transcriptionist is presented with a transcribed text and the original audio file. Their new role consists of checking the recognition accuracy rather than having to transcribe the entire report.
I am always amazed at vendors pushing front-end SR as the one and only magic potion that will make the documentation mountain vanish. Yes, front-end SR is fantastic on weekends, for highly confidential documents, or in environments such as Radiology, Pathology, ER where medical reports are typically short (e.g. “normal findings”). But other physicians might still see their main activities affected by the time required for the editing process. To me, it only makes sense that a SR system should leave all options open by supporting both the front-end and back-end workflow, ideally within the same licence. For instance, a facility can decide that short reports can be reviewed by Authors in foreground mode, while more complex and detailed work can be routed to transcription for correction as a standard or on the fly. On the other hand, switching from back-end to front-end may compensate for transcription resource shortage or periodic peaks of activity. Once again, we must remember that it is the technology that is supposed to adapt to the physician/organization’s needs, not the other way round.
Now what is the future of medical transcription in the context of back-end speech recognition? It indeed looks like the medical transcriptionist role is evolving more towards a “medical editor” role. How does this affect their job and overall career? See this thread for a take on the subject.