Can Resident Auditory-Perceptual Voice Assessments Predict Medical Urgency of Voice Disorders?



      Growing reliance on telemedicine has created new triaging challenges. This study investigated how effectively otolaryngology resident auditory-perceptual voice assessments performed via telemedicine determined the need for urgent in-person clinic visits.


      Twelve otolaryngology resident physicians (PGY1–PGY5) performed auditory-perceptual assessments on 25 voice samples recorded during initial voice evaluations. Voice samples were balanced in severity and taken in equal numbers from patients with the following diagnoses: benign laryngeal lesions, laryngeal cancer, functional voice disorders, laryngeal edema (associated with LPR), and laryngeal paralysis/paresis. Urgent diagnoses were defined as laryngeal cancer and severe unilateral laryngeal paralysis. For each voice sample, residents were initially blinded to patient medical history. Residents rated severity of voice disorder, predicted patient diagnosis, and determined the urgency of seeing the patient in clinic. Residents then reviewed information from the patient's medical history and again rated urgency of voice disorder.


      On average, residents identified urgent voice disorders in 56% of cases. After reviewing medical history, this number significantly increased to 77% (P = 0.001). Voice severity, smoking history, time since onset, and course of symptoms were considered most influential when determining medical urgency of voice patients. Year in residency program had no effect on rating accuracy. As expected, diagnostic accuracy of auditory-perceptual assessments was low, ranging from 40% for laryngeal paralysis/paresis to 5% for laryngeal edema.


      Auditory-perceptual voice assessment, combined with medical history, predicted most medically urgent voice disorders. Further work should investigate if task-specific training might improve these results and which medical history items are most critical. Until accuracy of auditory-perceptual assessment of medical urgency is improved, these data underscore the importance of laryngeal examination in identifying medical urgency and etiology of dysphonia.

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