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Medical Transcription: How To Improve Your Productivity
Medical transcription today as we know it is generally production-based work. It is likened to the phrase we often heard that sounds a bit old-fashioned today....'piecemeal work'.
I think medical transcription in the current day and age is best summed up in this one phrase...'what you see is what you get' or better yet, 'what you do is what you get.'
In order to focus on production, the MT or the editor must in effect be dedicated to the task at hand for the duration of his or her shift and that is not always an easy thing to do. Distractions of all kinds, internal and external, can serve to drag an editor or MT's line counts down which in turn leads to frustration and also less pay.
However, there are many ways that an MT and editor both can learn effective ways to pump up their production numbers while still turning out quality reports.
Let's explore some of them.
Tips and Tools to Increase Productivity in Medical Transcription
Employing any or all of these techniques and philosophies is going to help increase your productivity without fail. I can guarantee it because these techniques work for me on a daily basis.
Voted Best Stuff in the Industry by AHDI Poll
BEST WORD EXPANDER SOFTWARE OR TOOL
- Instant Text
Honorable mention: PC Shorthand and SpeedType
BEST MEDICAL DICTIONARY
- Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Honorable mention: Dorland's Medical Dictionary
BEST DRUG BOOK OR PHARMACEUTICAL REFERENCE
- Quick Look Drug Book
Honorable mention: Saunders Pharmaceutical Word Book
BEST OVERALL BOOK OR PRINTED REFERENCE
- The Book of Style for Medical Transcription, 3rd Edition
Honorable mention: Stedman's Medical & Surgical Equipment Words and Saunders Pharmaceutical Word Book
BEST ELECTRONIC REFERENCE (CD OR WEB SERVICE)
Honorable mention: Benchmark KB, Stedman's electronic word book series
BEST CLINICAL MEDICINE WEBSITE
Honorable mention: Drugs.com and eMedicine.com
BEST ENGLISH LANGUAGE WEBSITE
Honorable mention: Google.com, Grammarbook.com, Dictionary.com, Owl.english.purdue.edu
BEST PROVIDER OF MT EQUIPMENT
- Transcription Gear
Honorable mention: Executive Communication Services and Nuance
BEST INDUSTRY NEWSLETTER
- Vitals e-Newsletter
Honorable mention: For The Record
BEST ONLINE SOURCE FOR CONTINUING EDUCATION CREDIT
Honorable mention: AHIMA and M-TEC
This is truly the easiest and least expensive of all the things that an MT or an editor can do to enhance his or her production. It may seem frustrating at first trying to instill new habits and stepping away from the use of your mouse, but if you stick with it and you learn to utilize keyboard shortcuts, it is guaranteed that you will see a marked increase in your productivity.
If you find it difficult to learn shortcuts in Word which will save you time and make you more productive in the long run, commit to learning 1 or 2 per week. In order to make it more palatable to me, I took the entire list I found for Word shortcuts found at microsoft.com, picked out the shortcuts that I could reasonably use (and there were quite a few), then pasted them into a document. I then adjusted the font to be readable and had the list laminated. I keep it posted at my computer so I can reference the list and I can also try 1 or 2 new ones per week.
WORD EXPANDERS AND AUTOCORRECT
Word expanders and autocorrect are also invaluable tools for the MT or the editor and save you valuable time and keystrokes. The most important thing to remember from the beginning is that the data that you enter into any report needs to be 100% accurate. Most important of all is that when you use these particular tools, they are only that, tools that you must be aware of when using. Careful proofing of the expansion that you use guarantees that you wanted physical examination inserted there rather than pulmonary embolism .
The program I use is Instant Text. I use it to make entries for abbreviations I want to
expand in diagnoses or to create entries of standardized text I need to insert in a report. Such an example would be 'the patient
was prepped and draped in the usual sterile fashion '. I saved this as tpwpad .
Any system that works for you of course is acceptable. You can make
entries that are case sensitive or that even print out in a specific
There are several choices of dictionaries already built into the Instant Text program but I created my own dictionary and customized the expansion text to reflect things that I use all the time. These are great time savers as long as you apply the caveat that it is mandatory to proofread every expansion or autocorrect we use for accuracy and appropriateness.
The most important tool perhaps for an MT or an editor is the ability to focus completely on each and every report. I tend to have an overly disciplined personality but the strategy I employ I have found valuable for almost 40 years in medical transcription.
I take every report 1 report at a time. When I 'open' a report and start the report, the clock starts over. No matter what report came before, no matter what report comes after, it's all washed away and that report is a clean slate for me to start on and to master. That way, I never feel overwhelmed by how many reports I've done or have yet to do and it keeps my head fresh for each new report.
I also think about the report as I'm listening to it; while I'm checking numbers and checking doctor names or statistics, I try to actually visualize the patient and the situation. I find that that helps my focus. When the dictation part of the report begins, I try to visualize what the provider is seeing, what he or she is doing and how the patient is; perhaps what their prognosis is, what their diagnosis might be, or what they might require in order to be taken care of at the highest level or made better by the interventions.
If I'm doing a surgical dictation, I try and
visualize everything that the operator was doing and try and get a
general picture in my mind of the organs or parts of the body that are
being operated on. That helps me if I need to research terms I'm
unfamiliar with or simply can't precisely hear.
I find that this mind focus on the patient keeps me aware of the fact that this report is the most important thing I'm doing at that very moment. It also brings me front and center with the most important part of healthcare and the reason why we all do what we do every day - the patient. I find that by focusing on the patient, I delve deeper and try harder to get things as correct as humanly possible.
ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE DICTATORS
In medical transcription today, it seems like we have more English as a second language dictators than not. I believe that the tendency when faced with an ESL dictator is to panic and shy away from doing these dictators because people are afraid of making a mistake. They are also afraid that their production figures will go way down because let's face it - starting out with an ESL dictator at first will most likely slow you down.
But consider this fact - the more ESL dictators you do, the better you
become. The better you become, the more
your production goes up and most certainly, you will always find work because
some people just can't or won't do ESL dictators. It only makes you a notch above the rest.
I look at ESL dictators as the ultimate challenge and my goal is to get through that report with no blanks. I also make it a personal mountain to climb to totally 'get' what he or she is saying.
I also employ several techniques I've explained to people over the years which I call 'relax the brain about the ESL dictator' techniques.
I actually think that people go into this panic mode when they simply see a difficult dictator's name or an ESL dictator. I believe right then, their mind shuts off on some level.
I have a different way of looking at it in that I think it is a challenge yes, but I also feel that I can rise to the challenge and learn from it. I take a deep breath, dive in and decide it's going to go well.
If and when I hit a rough patch where I just can't understand what is being said, I replay it and think about something else while I'm listening.
Or I turn down the volume just a bit and do the same thing. Or I slow it down and do the same thing.
Sometimes just by adding the 'relax the brain' factor and by not straining so hard to get it or hear it, it becomes very clear.
It also helps to perhaps visualize where he or she is in terms of the body or history and thinking of the possibilities based on prior knowledge and experience. Sometimes you will surprise yourself!
If there are samples
available of difficult or ESL dictators, so much the better. Embrace
those and try and listen to the dictation with the samples in front of
you. Sometimes that helps you hear what you could not make yourself
hear without the samples.
GETTING TO KNOW YOUR REFERENCES
Make sure your reference sources are up to date and do the unthinkable sometimes. Just page through your Book of Style and read what fascinating things there are to learn. You'd be surprised sometimes at what we take for granted that we know but upon reading it in black and white, it may be completely different. Learning it rather than having it pointed out to you is always a plus!
Do the same
with reference books and drug books or programs. Sometimes a visual
read stores things in
our minds rather than looking them up when you are stressing to get a
done. When I started in the medical
transcription business, I actually used to write out things I'd learned
notebook by hand, then later type them up to commit them to memory. I
also did the same with anatomy or diagnostic books and found that this
way, I remembered them more easily.
Keeping a notebook close by that is alphabetized or having a document to which you can add words, drugs, etc. is a great reference that you can create yourself. I've found that it works best if you save alphabetically but whatever your technique, you want to be able to locate them quickly if you can't remember them. This is another great way to help yourself to become your own reference source!
INTERNET SEARCHES AND RESOURCES
If I run across a phrase that sounds really strange and I can't find documentation anywhere for it, I copy the phrase, surgery name or product into Google and do a search. Most often I can find documentation for something I've not run across before and add it to my references.
Just make sure in the case of surgical instruments, stents, etc. that you find the correct source, i.e. it should have a trademark symbol to verify that that is actually the correct name.
Also beware that in an Internet search you can come up with many possibilities and they can all be different, so it's important to verify the source. If in doubt, always ask someone more qualified to have a look.
In terms of learning opportunities, there are thousands of medical videos on youtube or other Internet sources where you can learn about or view procedures, treatments, diseases and drugs to name but a few.
For instance, simply type in 'cardiac catheterization video' and you'll find a jackpot of information available on many websites and loads of videos to view as well.
How to Use Autocorrect with Acronyms
Shortcuts For MicroSoft Word
KEEPING TRACK OF YOUR RESOURCES AND DOCUMENTATION
I love books but in this day and age, it's much more convenient to have
computer-based resources. Over the
years, I've accumulated many Stedman's references but nowadays, I order them on
CD because it's easier to have them on my computer, open and at the ready so
all I have to do is use the 'find' command and I have my answer. They also attach to your Word program so that you can easily browse different references.
Any facility that I routinely do reports for, I have their website saved into my favorites. I then open that facility and minimize it so that if I need to find a cardiologist for example for that facility but I can't quite make out the name, I can easily research all the cardiologists and thus am able to find him or her quickly.
Any resource that I have for a facility that I might need to reference information from (like account specs, provided physician lists, even my Book of Style on CD) are all open and minimized while I work.
The 'find' function on web pages, pdf files and within programs will save
you time and increase your production guaranteed! Simply do a find and search the word that you're looking for and you should see a marked decrease in the time it takes you to research things rather than scrolling through pages and documents.
TEMPLATES, SAMPLES AND MACROS
Last but not least, anything you can do to jog your memory and help you figure out that phrase that a provider says over and over and you just can't remember, use it!
Whether you keep templates on your computer stored in Word or Wordpad, macros or instant text and autocorrect or even if you have samples printed out in a notebook to look up for reference, make sure you use them! Use the method though that is most time efficient for you and the methodology that most easily helps you learn and remember the verbiage.
Most of us wish we had perfect recall but sadly, the amount of words that we digest and hear every single day makes that impossible. By creating macros, templates or sample reports and having them saved appropriately so that you can find them quickly will give you yet another wonderfully helpful tool to increase your productivity and decrease your research time. As in all other tools, just make sure that you save your macros, templates and samples in the correct font and that they are accurate.
Part of the art of medical transcription is recognizing standard phrases, anticipating where the provider that's dictating is going with the dictation, and almost knowing what he or she is going to say before he or she says it.
As in all things medical, have a care when you use templates, when you use macros and when you copy/paste. Some of the most critical patient errors occur because people don't proofread their documents and that is part of the solemn responsibility we are faced with. We should all be aware that when we sign off on a report, it is our reputation and our work ethic that is behind that report so always proof and always question if in doubt.
Reference samples of difficult dictators or ESL dictators but make sure that the samples are of a reliable source, for instance from the facility or acceptable proofed reports by that dictator. In today's electronic age, errors are perpetrated very easily by entry of the wrong data in samples that are then populated to everyone. Always think to ask if it just doesn't make sense.
SUMMARY OF MEDICAL TRANSCRIPTION AND HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR PRODUCTIVITY
If you are an MT or an editor, there are many things you can do to not only be better at your job but be more productive. The way that I look at medical transcription is that it's a new ballgame every day. There are always new things to learn, new challenges to meet.
The most important thing to me is dedication to the ideal that each and every patient deserves to be treated as if it were your loved one being treated. We all participate in someone's care that someone somewhere loves and treasures. We owe it to them to give them our best effort to get it right.
Today, medical transcription is an extremely lucrative career simply because most of the workforce works from home and there are many, many benefits to this work style. However, the fact still remains that this is an ethic-based position and an ever-changing and evolving career.
Some people have a harder time than others tuning out distractions and find that working at home can be more of a detriment than a positive. However, I do believe that we all have the potential to learn self discipline if we truly want to enjoy the luxury of working at home but some of us have to work harder at that than others.
I wish you all as much success as I've enjoyed over these almost 40 years. I actually look forward to maybe another couple decades to see where we all go!
Great Keyboard Shortcuts
Use This Keyboard Command
What You Can Do
F3 or ALT+CTRL+V
Create Auto Text
Delete Word Left of Cursor
Delete Word Right of Cursor
End of Line
Font Size Select
Start of Document
Start of Line
Start of Row
Word Highlights to Left
Word Highlights to Right
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