Monday, September 10, 2007

False Punctuation

When doctors first started dictating over the telephone they quickly learned that, unless they kept making noise, certain types of tape-recording machinery would cut off them off, disconnect them, and leave them stranded. Many physicians grew to resent the inconvenience of having to dial in, start dictating all over again, and still face the possibility of getting cut off by the dictation equipment.

Digital dictation systems have pretty much solved this problem. The digital recording technology is voice activated and will often allow the speaker to remain silent for anywhere from 5 to 50 minutes.

Nevertheless, many physicians have trouble organizing theirthoughts while dictating. As a result, they have developed two extremely bad habits:

  • Many doctors repeat the word "period" in an effort to (a) stall for time, and (b) make sure that the dictation equipment does not hang up on them. As a result, medical transcriptionists will often hear doctors dictating something like this:

"The patient is in no acute distress. Period. Period. Umm...Period. Period. Aagh... Period. Umm... Period. And a period. Period. And period."

This kind of dictation is not only confusing, it is extremely counterproductive.

  • When dictating, many doctors are flipping through a patient's chart while trying to organize their thoughts and decide which facts they should include in a report. Between adding extra "periods" and searching for important information, they tend to overuse the instruction "new paragraph."

This leads to many one-sentence paragraphs which are unnecessary, counterproductive, and waste paper by forcing a report to contain more"white space." Sentences should be used for simple statements. A collection of statements forms a paragraph. Paragraphs should be used to separate areas of thought. Each sentence does not, in and of itself, constitute a paragraph.

Medical transcriptionists occasionally encounter a doctor who insists on using a unique style of punctuation (which may or may not be grammatically correct) and lots of one-sentence paragraphs (which waste space and paper). Insisting that your reports follow a different format from everyone else's is an unnecessary form of inflicting your ego on the process of documenting patient care.

Your job is to deliver the information to the transcriptionist. The transcriptionist will take care of formatting the text.

Next: Gender Rotation

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