Despite the promise of the paperless office, Marsh Marshall, a venture capitalist at ECentury Capital Partners in McLean, notices all of the paper files still being kept by physicians.

"It's like they're stuck in a time warp," Marshall said. "At what point in time will the health care industry embrace information technology and how will they do it?"

Marshall is betting that one of the first technological changes will be in how doctors keep notes on patients, now that his venture firm, along with Mid-Atlantic Venture Funds in Reston, is leading a $5.8 million round of funding for ProVox Technologies Corp. ProVox, based in Roanoke, makes voice-recognition software for medical professionals. Its software helps doctors take notes on patients electronically, instead of dictating into tape recorders for later transcription.

"We're essentially eliminating the way that patient-contact documentation has happened forever," said ProVox chief executive Steven Bennington.

Other companies have developed advanced voice-recognition software, but Bennington said ProVox is the only company that tailors its programs to the medical field. His primary competition, he said, is the old way of doing things with transcription services.

Most doctors spend hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars each month on transcription services. ProVox replaces that with voice-recognition software that is compatible with handheld digital assistants and laptops. The price for ProVox's software ranges from $6,000 to $15,000, depending on the type and size of the license agreement.

ProVox began selling its software in 2000 and now has more than 1,000 customers, mostly on the eastern seaboard. This round of funding will be used to expand the company's sales and marketing efforts nationwide, and to hire more people.

"We'll be more than doubling [the workforce] by the end of the year," Bennington said.

This should also be the company's last round of venture capital, as Bennington said ProVox will be profitable by the end of the year.

As for the future, Marshall said the company could make an attractive acquisition target as consolidation increases among technology companies that serve doctors and hospitals.

"It's a very fragmented world," Marshall said. "We think there are going to be a lot of companies interested in ProVox."