Dictation versus typing

| Comments (6) | Misc
Barry Leiba and Jarrod observe that doctors routinely use dictation plus transcription:

Oh boy "And Doctors." A Forensic Pathologist I know spends at least 15 hours a week outside of the office dictating cases. Especially important ones she types herself, but it takes much, much more of her time than recording a dictation, emailing the .mp3 to the transcriptionist, and then reading and correcting the report for errors before sending it out. Typing speed isn't really a limiting factor either, as she does about 80wpm.

I certainly understand why one would want to dictate material if you were doing something else with your hands at the time (cf. TV shows where you see a coroner dictate while performing an autopsy). But I must say it's not apparent to me why you would dictate instead of typing if you were a good typist. I've tried dictating material to authors and always found it much easier to just type it in myself. Is this just a skill you have to practice? Is there something special about doctors?

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I used to listen to my Dad (an otolaryngologist) dictate charts. I don't know if he was typical (though I have no reason to believe he wasn't) but he didn't exactly speak in a conversational tone. I half believe that he didn't really know what he was saying while he was saying it, but he just opened his head and the whole thing fell out on tape as fast as he could speak, no verbal indication of punctuation, no inflection. For his age he's unusual in being both male and a trained, accomplished typist, but I know he couldn't type as fast as he could speak, and I'm pretty sure you couldn't keep up with him at 80wpm.

(The dictation rooms were cool BTW, they were in the hospital and had these little work areas, kind of like the courtesy phones in hotels. Pick up the handset and it would start recording, the doctors didn't even have to be troubled to push a button. They'd start each dictation with a case number and the machine elves made sure it all ended up where it needed to be by the next day).

I can guarantee that most physicians do not do their own transcription... and they dictate entirely because they have their hands full.

My girlfriend is medical doctor and she dictates too. The reason is simple:

When she does the dictate she constantly flips through the medical records of the patient (images, text etc) and it would be slow her down, if she constantly needs to switch between a writing app (e.g. Microsoft Word) and the other apps, where the info is recorded.

Also the secretary usually brings the whole conversation into a nice form and even corrects typical mis-spellings (if he/she is good :-)

So at the end it takes much less time for her to do the reports - and she anyway works more than 12h every day...

My girlfriend is medical doctor and she dictates too. The reason is simple:

When she does the dictate she constantly flips through the medical records of the patient (images, text etc) and it would be slow her down, if she constantly needs to switch between a writing app (e.g. Microsoft Word) and the other apps, where the info is recorded.

Also the secretary usually brings the whole conversation into a nice form and even corrects typical mis-spellings (if he/she is good :-)

So at the end it takes much less time for her to do the reports - and she anyway works more than 12h every day...

As I was reading your post I thought that "outside of the office" might be significant: I was thinking that dictating while driving, or at least walking around away from a convenient place to type, would be easier; but being busy flipping through stuff as you're trying to get thoughts down about it, as Kusmi said, also makes sense to me.

My girlfriend, an attorney, says it's very common in the legal field as well. We discussed it, and she says it's for two primary reason. First, she is usually looking at other documents and commenting on them, and the context switch between that and a word processor would slow her down too much. That's important because of the second reason, which is that she bills at around $150/hr, but most clients specify a maximum amount of time that they will allow for various routine tasks.


Therefore, it makes economic sense for her firm to encourage her to spend that fixed time coming up with the content of the letter, and then hand it off to a much less highly paid secretary to transcribe, so that she can move on to the next billable item.


She also reports that lawyers she knows who bill by the document rather than by the minute *do* type their own documents most of the time.

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