Background Digital voice transcription has been introduced widely in the National Health Service (NHS), though primarily in radiology departments. There has been a long-standing problem with recruitment of medical secretaries within the NHS, leading to long delays in the production of correspondence from outpatient clinics.
Objective To determine whether use of widely available digital transcription software improves efficiency and the time taken to produce correspondence.
Methods The project used a prospective, crossover trial design in a ‘real-world’ environment. Correspondence from clinics was transcribed after dictation by a secretary using conventional analogue audio tape or the dictation software. After a 2-week washout period the same clinics' dictations were transcribed using the other method to produce identical correspondence. The two sets of letters were compared.
Results The mean time for the secretary to produce letters for a complete clinic using digital dictation was 66 min whereas analogue dictation took 121 min (p<0.00002). There was no difference in the number of mistakes per letter (p>0.05).
Conclusion Voice transcription software significantly decreased the time taken to transcribe outpatient clinic letters with minimal training of secretarial staff, resulting in improved efficiency.
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