Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Haste Makes Waste

Ever since the world premiere of Trial By Jury in 1875, the patter songs contained in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas have presented a stiff challenge to musical comedy performers. In order to deliver these songs properly -- and have the audience understand Sir William Schwenk Gilbert's intricate lyrics -- an actor must have superb enunciation, fierce breath control, an ability to spit out his consonants, and enough vocal power to be heard in the last row of a theater's balcony. These are skills (superbly demonstrated by the great George Rose in this clip from The Pirates of Penzance) which most physicians desperately lack and will probably never achieve.

Yet, for unknown and ill-founded reasons, many physicians feel as if they have been challenged to break through some mystical speed barrier while dictating. Although the speed record for taking down dictation among court reporters lies somewhere around 275 words per minute, one doctor recently tried to convince me that he could dictate at a rate of 700 words per minute. Not only is this physically impossible, it is a totally asinine goal.

When speaking quickly, the average person can probably be clocked at 225 to 240 words per minute. In order to be licensed by the State of California as a Certified Shorthand Reporter, a person must be able to transcribe ten minutes of four-voice dictation at a rate of 200 words per minute with an accuracy rate of 97.5%.

The speed at which a physician dictates can cause severe problems for a transcriptionist which result in dangerous documentation errors. Often, the wreckage left by the dictating physician takes longer to clean up than what could have been achieved if the text had been dictated at a slower speed. Simply stated, this is a case of GIGO:

Garbage in, garbage out

[Consciousness Raising Exercise #7]

Next: Is Stress Affecting The Quality Of Your Dictation?

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