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Digital Dictation & Transcription
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Digital Dictation & Transcription

If you are a Medical Transcriptionist, you no longer can afford to ignore the slow but sure move away from tapes as a medium used for recording dictation. Although many, many physicians are still using tapes to record their dictation, it becomes more obvious daily that there also are more physicians using digital voice recorders to hold their dictation. There are obvious benefits to using the digital format for recording such as: being able to use a small handheld voice recorder; larger capacity recording time due to the various, but similar, types of storage methods used; better features on voice recorders such as separate directories, so, for instance, urgent dictation, chart dictation, personal dictation, medicolegal dictation, etc., may be separated for ease of access. The audio quality is usually superior to tapes. (This is especially important in light of the fact that most physicians think recording tapes last forever and rarely toss them out without a fight, as many veteran MTs will attest.)

How does digital dictation work?

The process begins when your client dictates into a digital voice recorder, much the same way s/he would dictate into any handheld voice recorder. When finished, s/he simply uploads the files from their digital voice recorder to their computer. To upload the files from the recorder, the recorder is connected to the computer with a USB cable, usually included with the digital voice recorder at time of purchase. At this point, software either included with the digital voice recorder or other software, recognizes there has been a connection made and a window will pop up asking the user where the files should be saved. Your client saves the files to the directory of their choice. Once the files are uploaded to the computer, the process is finished and the connection can be removed. The client then opens their e-mail program and prepares a message to send to his/her transcriptionist and, using the "attach a file" feature available in most e-mail programs, attaches the digital files that were just uploaded and saved from their handheld recorder to a directory on their computer. The e-mail is then sent, encrypted, to the transcriptionist with the file attached.

It is very important to note that each and every e-mail, especially those containing a digital file whose contents are personal and confidential health information on individuals, should only ever be sent by encrypted e-mail. If you do not encrypt e-mail that includes private patient health files, it makes the e-mail a possible target for hackers who may intercept and open the e-mail. Once intercepted, the hacker may use the contents somehow to their advantage, i.e., to embarrass the physician and/or transcriptionist, citing their lack of concern about privacy, or use the private patient information for personal, financial, or other gain. If you do not want to risk your reputation or that of your client, and want to ensure that a patient's health records are always protected in transit, you have to use e-mail encryption.

When the medical transcriptionist receives an encrypted e-mail, the file is opened and then brought into your PC transcription system using software like that included with the WAVpedal system. The MT may convert the digital file to any number of many formats, but the most popular one that most MTs use or convert to is the "wav" format, as in "filename.wav" In conjunction with the software the MT can then manipulate the digital voice file with the WAVpedal foot pedal. From there, everything works just as it does on a regular tape transcriber. The foot pedal controls movements through the voice file just like moving through a conventional tape. The software includes features not found on a tape transcriber machine, including being able to move immediately to certain points in the dictation with no time delay and usually far greater control over the speed of the playback. After finishing transcribing the files, the MT simply e-mails the finished reports, as an attachment (digitally signed and encrypted, of course), back to the physician's office for filing or printing there.

That is the process generally, and some things may differ according to the type of system, recorder, software, being used. The point we want to make is that it is not a difficult process. It is efficient, secure, and easy to get started. It allows MTs to receive work from larger companies who are always looking for MTs to perform work from home. These MTs will need to be familiar with the digital process.

What do I need to transcribe digital dictation files?

You will need a special foot pedal required to manipulate digital files, such as the WAVpedal software and foot pedal (sold together and sold in The Medword Online Store). Your physician client will need a digital voice recorder. If you use the WAVpedal system, the brand of digital voice recorder does not really matter. To use the special foot pedal required to manipulate digital files, you will need to have a computer with an available USB port or serial port connection. Most new computers come with at least one serial port connection and at least one USB connection - some come with two or more USB connections. (Click here to see a picture of a serial port connector and USB connector.) Almost every computer comes with a serial port connection at the very least, even very old computers. (You should know that there are converter cables that will convert a serial connection to a USB connection, and ones that convert a USB connection to a serial connection, if that will help in your situation. Visit your local computer store for help.) You also need an Internet connection, telephone or cable, and an e-mail account. Lastly, you need to have a word processing software program usually included in office bundles such as Microsoft Office Professional 2007 or Corel WordPerfect Office 12 Small Business Edition that will work with your digital file transcribing system. Please realize that to manipulate the digital files, you need a foot pedal that connects to your computer. (A foot pedal that comes with a tape transcriber will not work.) The WAVpedal foot pedal and software package that Medword recommends and sells fulfill these two last, but very important, requirements. You also have a choice of ordering the WAVpedal with a serial connection or USB connection There are other foot pedals available on the market that do much the same thing as the WAVpedal system, but certainly not as well. The reason Medword recommends and sells the WAVpedal foot pedal system is that the WAVpedal is the authentic and original PC foot pedal system designed for manipulating digital files. Medword is an authorized reseller for the manufacturer of the WAVpedal and units are always in stock and always shipped right away. The WAVpedal has features that other systems do not, including the ability to convert files recorded on almost every type of digital handheld recorder. This allows the MT to perform transcription for many client physicians, regardless of the type of digital voice recorder they use. Medword believes this is a very important feature for an independent MT, as it allows more possibilities for accepting work.

What does my client (physician) need?

All your client needs is a digital voice recorder and, ideally, a computer with Internet connection and e-mail account.

If your client does not have a computer or cannot or will not e-mail her/his digitally recorded dictation for some reason, there is still a way for you to transcribe it. Your client will need to send you the "memory stick" or "smart card" or whatever storage medium is used in their particular recorder, from their recorder with the completed dictation on it. (Some basic recorders do not have removable media, so if your client does not have a computer or does not want to e-mail the files, be sure s/he buys a digital voice recorder with removable media.) If the client sends the dictation to you this way, they will need one or more additional memory sticks or cards for their digital voice recorder to use while you are working on the files on the one you were sent. Also, if your client sends you a memory stick or smart card, you will need a special adaptor to plug into a USB port on your computer, so you can access the memory card or memory stick. The kind of adaptor you need depends upon the type of digital media their recorder uses. Unfortunately, using the digital voice recorder files this way is really just substituting digital media for tape media. You will still have to deal with pick-up and delivery of the media, as you did with tapes. Unfortunately, one of the best features of digital dictation is the ability to e-mail it instead of physically send it, but at least you will have the benefit of other features of digital files during transcription.

This is the future of MT and if you are not actively looking into this type of system, you may miss opportunities to engage new clients or perform transcription on a contract basis for others. It doesn't cost much, it's easy to install, and a lot of physicians/dictators really like it. If you are an independent contractor (IC), a good method of introduction to this system of dictating is to provide your client with a digital voice recorder (just on-loan while they are your client, of course) and you should find their acceptance of the new technology and procedures to be more positive.

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