Thursday, September 13, 2007

Using the Proper Recording Medium

Physicians wouldn't think twice about the advantages of purchasing a compact disk with digitally-engineered sound instead of an old-fashioned, 12-inch vinyl record. Yet many doctors steadfastly cling to an outdated medium -- analog dictation recorded on cassette tapes -- rather than embrace digital dictation. They can be surprisingly vehement about their reasons for doing so:
  • They already have a handheld microcassette recorder and know how to use it. What's more, that cassette recorder is the equipment they learned to use when they started dictating. They see no reason to change.

  • A handheld microcassette recorder allows them to dictate while they are examining a patient. If they wish, they can go into the hallway between
    examining rooms or a stairwell to dictate. They can even dictate in their car or in the bathroom.

  • They have already purchased tapes and don't want to waste them.

What these doctors fail to comprehend is that cassette tapes are an extremely labor-intensive medium where the added labor costs are represented by clerks and messengers as opposed to transcriptionists. If the dictation/transcription process involves tapes:

  • The quality of sound on the tapes is often substandard (doctors have a tendency to dictate over the words they have already spoken when using

  • The tapes must be physically transported to and from the transcriptionist.

  • It is impossible to track documents needing priority attention.

Marshall McLuhan was probably not thinking about dictating physicians when he coined the phrase "The medium is the message." Yet these two equations demonstrate how the costs of the dictation/transcription process are directly related to the recording medium being used:

Taped dictation = Slower turnaround + higher costs

Digital dictation = Faster turnaround + lower costs

Here's a little industry secret to remember: Instead of having the labor force travel to where the work is and perform it onsite, today's technology has reversed the process so that work is sent out to a labor force which performs the work at remote locations. If your hospital, clinic, or private practice is not yet using a digital dictation system, it's time to either "get with the program" or be left behind the competition.

[Consciousness Raising Exercise #29]

Next: The Basics Of Any Digital Dictation System

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