Improve your dictation with these tips...

6 min read

An increasing number of people in the medical profession are turning to audio reports. Rather than spending hours sitting at your computer, you can dictate directly to a recording device or to your mobile, and save yourself some time. In addition to being a faster option, you can also multitask while you dictate once you get well-practised. Many find the process of dictation a relaxing one and think it is easier to express themselves verbally instead of via the written word. However, to ensure your report is as accurate as possible, it’s a good idea to practice clear diction.

Read on for useful hints that will ensure your message is crystal clear in your reports, and avoid any confusion. These tips are great for both first-time and experienced dictators and offer a foundation of good dictation practices, designed to help make outsourcing your medical transcriptions stress-free.

1. Research your recording equipment

It’s always a good idea to read up on the ins and outs of your particular software or the device that you are using. Understanding the audio settings and other options will allow you to produce the highest quality recording possible, and you should also do a practice run to make sure your recording environment is quiet enough and that your voice can be heard clearly. Remember to start by saying “this is a test”, so it doesn’t get transcribed. If after reading the manual you still have questions, doubts, or feel like you’d like to know more about what your equipment can do, you can always contact the digital recorder provider.

2. Find the right environment for your dictation device

Make sure you are in an area that is quiet enough for your recording device’s microphone to pick up everything you say. Try closing doors and windows, moving to a quiet room, and turning off devices like fans and heaters that make a lot of noise. Also, avoid eating, drinking, breathing too loud, yawning, coughing, scratching or any noise – it may seem extreme, however, microphones are quite sensitive and they can become a nightmare for the transcriptionist. Noise-cancelling microphones can filter out background noise and provide a purer stream of audio, which should let you dictate even in a busy office.

But remember that every microphone and device is different, so when you’re dictating in a new space be sure to do a test run to make sure the background noise doesn’t overpower your voice.

3. Know what you want to say

Before you begin recording, you need to make a plan in your head and get organised, so your dictation follows a pattern that makes sense. First, gather all your notes and ensure you have any relevant documents, figures or reports in front of you. You should also consider the key messages you want to impart before hitting the ‘record’ button. This way, your recording will have a good structure and contain all the important information necessary.

In addition, make sure you have all documentation that’ll help you refer to the correspondent physician, including their address or fax number, the patient’s demographics and the details of who to copy into the report; usually their name or fax as well. It may be easier to make a template that you can keep in front of you to refer to, perhaps in the form of a script. This will help you to keep organised all the way through the dictation.

4. Identify yourself

It’s a common mistake you forget about yourself when dictating – but it’s is crucial to state your identity. In order to avoid skipping this step, it’s a good idea to start each dictation with your name, the type of report, and the date you want to be reflected. For example, the day of the patient’s examination, the date of your dictation, or the date the transcriber is actually completing the work. Keep things clear and organised from the get-go, and your dictations will require little editing.

5. Spell any words that need clarification

The general rule of thumb (and common sense) here is that if you use an unusual word or a word that sounds the same as another, you should spell it out. For example, remember that ‘Anne’, ‘Ann’ and ‘an’ all sound the same! Always state and then spell full details of names, addresses, mailing addresses if different to address, file numbers, etc. The tricky part comes with the words that we use daily, we are so used to them that we forget they may have alternate spellings. But the more you practice, the more your brain will get the hang of it!

In addition to the spelling of certain common words, you should also spell technical terms or jargon, whether they’re rarely used in your day-to-day work vocabulary or not. While medical transcriptionists are experienced and trained when it comes to medical terms, these are constantly changing. Also, there’s no way you can know just how familiar a term may be to somebody other than yourself, so be sure to clearly spell all medical terms, including diseases, drugs and procedures. If you’re unsure yourself on how a certain word is spelled, do not attempt to spell it, as you could be giving false information. Simply say it as clearly as possible, so the transcriptionist can easily get it and confirm the spelling themselves if required.

6. Speak clearly and slowly

One way to ensure your speech is easily intelligible is to imagine you are a newsreader. Enunciate each word, and speak much less speedily than you usually would. It may feel odd at first, and you may think your speech is sounding exaggerated – but this is only because you’re not used to it. It will make it a much easier task for your transcriber.

Speaking clearly and slowly is also crucial if you have a speech pathology, such as a stammer or a lisp; if English is not your native language and you have an accent or if you have a different accent than your transcriptionist. While you may not notice the difference, a slow, clearer speech could mean the world for your transcriptionist.

7. Avoid microphone mishaps

Some mics are very sensitive, and speaking too closely to them may result in an unclear recording. Try to avoid letting your voice fade out at the end of sentences, and try not to breathe directly into the mic as this tends to produce a rough sound that can obscure what you are saying. Read up on the recommended speaking distance for your particular microphone or device for capturing the optimum sound levels.

8. Keep it simple

Concise and clear sentences are best for easy dictation. This way you can avoid being rambling and verbose. Try to dictate for just one sentence or one paragraph, then take a breath to consider the next one (especially if you are new to dictation). This helps you clearly form a thought, get it on paper, and move on. Most of the time, over thinking and nerves can get the best of you, even if it’s not your first rodeo – having the notion that you’re being recorded can feel a bit strange and make you feel self-conscious. Try some deep breaths before dictating and clear your mind before you start.

9. Remember to punctuate as you dictate

When you want a new paragraph started, or the insertion of a comma or a full stop, be sure to include the instruction in your dictation, as this will make it a lot easier for transcriptionists. Note that the preferable and proper phrase when dictating is “full stop” rather than “period” at the end of a sentence. Also, try to include “open” and “close” quote instructions and parenthesis.

10. Take a moment to gather your thoughts

If you are not sure what to say next, then simply stop while you think before starting again. This way you can avoid having to edit out all the ‘uhms’ and ‘ahs’ you might utter as you think of what to say next. Filler words are usually hard to pinpoint as we usually say them unconsciously, however they add extra time to your speech and they can be quite distracting when listening to them repeatedly.

11. Maintain your equipment

For the best sound quality, maintain your equipment regularly, just like you would with any other machine. In addition, keep recording devices stocked with fresh batteries (and always have backup batteries just in case), and clean your tape recorder periodically to prevent dust from causing snaps or any interference that can result in your recordings being of inferior quality.

12. Announce ending

It may sound obvious at first, but announcing the end of your dictation makes a huge difference for transcriptionists, as it’ll be crystal clear there are no more dictations to be transcribed. Make sure you say “end of dictation” when you’re done.

13. Ask for feedback

This is a very important step. All these tips we’ve mapped out are useful – but at the end of the day, getting feedback from the people who have to listen to them is the most valuable tip of all, as it’ll enlighten you and help you identify specific mistakes you’re making. And just as receiving feedback is crucial, you can also give feedback yourself to the transcriptionist – having an effective communication channel is key to a prosperous professional relationship.

Turning to dictation to document medical reports has many benefits, especially for people who find it easier to express via speech rather than writing – plus, it can be faster to record yourself rather than typing in front of a computer. Talk to T-Pro today and see how we can help you take the hassle of out of record keeping.


About T-Pro 

T-Pro is a leading healthcare technology and services provider operating worldwide. We provide solutions that use machine learning and AI technologies, such as virtual consultation and speech recognition, to improve access to health services and enhance the way clinicians produce clinical documentation. T-Pro offers more timely and appropriate access to care by connecting clinicians and patients remotely and makes it easy for clinicians to document patient encounters whilst also providing valuable insights which can help to reduce risk, drive efficiencies across healthcare organisations and provide more time for patient care.

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