ABC: Digital Dictation

According to Dictaphone┬«, in 1952 recorded dictation itself was established as “a time saver over handwriting and stenography among attorneys, physicians and other professionals”. In fact, it was in 1973 that the first mini-cassette recorder was marketed, making analog dictation the technological equivalent of listening to music on an 8 track tape!

There are several options to capture dictation files, once you have decided to upgrade. They include:


A toll free number is dialed, a pass code punched in and work is dictated into the receiver or speaker of a standard telephone, using the key pad to control the recording functions (play, rewind, insert, etc.). Upon completion of the call, the digital file created is routed through the internet to a secretary, virtual assistant or transcription company.

Dial in dictation has many benefits, including:

no capital expenditure for equipment or software;

no learning curve for portable recorder or dictation software;

24 hour service availability;

ability to dictate from anywhere there is a phone, including while traveling;

works as well for single professionals as it does for large corporations.


Portable digital recorders can be located in any electronics or office supply store, catalog or website. They range in price from as little as $50.00 to $500.00 and up. Along with the recorder, software is provided for the transfer of the digital file created by the unit to a computer, generally through a USB cable or a cradle. A user guide and software included with the recorder usually contain instructions and a tutorial.

Dictating is fairly straight forward and quite similar to an analog (tape) recorder. When purchasing a unit, note button size, shape and location. Be certain that the unit is not so small, or button placement so awkward that it is uncomfortable to use. Also be certain that the recorder has all the functions needed. Some less expensive models, for instance, do not have the ability to insert – that quick rewind to go over what you just said to say it better. Research all the model’s functions before you purchase!

Once a digital file is created and uploaded to a PC, it is ready to be sent through a company’s network, direct upload to a transcription service provider or over the internet to a virtual assistant. Many portable software units require the purchase of separate transcription software and equipment such as a foot pedal.


As with many types of software, development of digital dictation applications range from basic to the extremely comprehensive and industry specific. Most dictation software has a free trial period (usually thirty days) and can be downloaded directly from a developer’s website. In a nutshell, digital dictation software turns a computer’s microphone, speakers, mouse and monitor into a dictation machine. Just as with a portable unit, when the file is complete, it is ready for transfer through your company’s network or over the internet to your transcription provider.

Should you invest in a portable recorder, PC-based software, or use a transcription service and toll free number? Each situation is unique and requires consideration of many factors, including your company’s needs, size, volume of work and technology comfort level.

Dictation Software For Medical Transcription Companies

Recent advances in speech recognition software have substantially changed the way that medical transcriptionists work. It has increased the volume that each transcriptionist can put out and it has also made the job much easier and less tedious. Not all dictation software is created the same, and some of them will be able to provide a software platform that can assist medical transcription companies with many aspects of their business.

It is incredible how quickly the technology has changed. Most people can remember when voice recognition technology was only suitable for the input of numbers and single words where the input was expected. When this software is used for medical transcription, it must have the ability to accurately translate speech into text. It must also be able to handle the vast array of medical terms that are currently used and have the ability to identify things like sentence breaks so that the output is readable by a medical transcriptionist.

Dictation software now has the ability in some cases to work on a server that takes an audio file of some sort and converts it into text. That can then be delivered in this form to a medical transcriptionist who can work on something that is somewhere close to a finished product. When the medical transcriptionist can spend their time reviewing the data and not correcting punctuation the medical transcription companies will realize greater profits from reduced expenses.

Expense reduction from the use of dictation software to convert speech to text is just the beginning. Software platforms are now available that can do the speech conversion and efficiently distribute the workflow to the appropriate transcriptionists. This relieves the burden on management of having to manually assign work and potentially having transcriptionists wait for work. It also allows the medical transcription company to direct certain kinds of work to a medical transcriptionist who may have more experience in a particular area.

The methods that the medical transcriptionists use to edit the work have also changed. Dictation software can be acquired that will allow easy editing and includes additional functionality like word expanders. These are much more expensive when they are purchased from a third party company and if they are included in the software then the editing work is likely to go much faster.

Dictation software can also be programmed to draw patient data or patient lists from one source and insert it into a document. This is just another way that the software can handle a function that was previously done in a manual way. Other useful tools that are now included in the software platform are things like a medical spell check dictionaries and the ability of the software to automatically deliver the documents in a method that is requested by a client.

Dictation software has greatly improved the productivity of every medical transcriptionist but it will never take the place of a transcriptionist. Somebody will always be needed to oversee the work but now they can do that in much less time and use an interface that is far easier to navigate.

Time Management Tips: Dictation Software As a Time Saver

Dictation software is popular because it saves time. You can speak three times faster than you can type, so consider dictation apps if you haven’t tried them.

If you’ve tried them, and gave up, try again; it can take at least a couple of weeks to become comfortable dictating. The time you save over years is worth a little hassle for a couple of weeks.

Which Dictation Software?

Voice recognition software pops up everywhere. It’s part of both the Windows and Mac OS X operating systems. If you’re an iPhone user, the Siri personal assistant has been both praised and reviled. I’m in the haters camp. I turned off Siri; life’s too short.

If you’re a professional, and need voice dictation, you’ll get the best results from a commercial product. Over the years, commercial voice recognition software has devolved into the “Dragon” range of products from Nuance.

I’ve used both Dragon Naturally Speaking (Windows) and Dragon Dictate (Mac.) Although the Windows product is superior, in its latest incarnation, Dictate almost matches it.

My production computer is a Mac; I haven’t used the Windows version of Dragon for a while, so everything in this article relates primarily to my experiences with Dragon Dictate.

These tips work for me; your mileage may vary. Dictation is intensely personal.

Voice Dictation Tips

* Take the time to train your software

Over time, the software builds up a voice profile for you. After installation, “train” the software the way you usually dictate. Unfortunately, mood, microphone, and time of day can confuse your profile, which leads to more errors in transcription.

For example, my voice is scratchy first thing in the morning, so I’ve learned that I can’t dictate early in the day; I need a coffee or two to lubricate my vocal cords.

Retrain occasionally, if you’re finding that you’re getting too many errors.

* Speak clearly, at a normal rate of speech

Dragon Dictate has fewer errors the faster I speak, so I’ve learned to jot a few notes before I open my mouth. Otherwise, I hesitate, and this leads to transcription errors.

Try to speak clearly, without over-enunciating. Take two or three deep breaths before you start speaking, and try to relax.

* Spell out errors while you’re dictating

Your software will make errors, some humorous. Take the time to correct obvious errors while you’re dictating, so that your profile is updated.

Occasionally Dictate will interpret dictation as a command; resist the temptation to throw your computer against the wall. I’ve found that sticking with the Notepad in Dictate, rather than dictating into applications like MS Word, helps with this.

* Take the time to proofread

Voice dictation software is far from perfect. You’ll need to correct sound-alike errors like “to” for “two” or “too.”

For me, the most common sound-alikes are “there” for “their”. Complete your dictation, then proofread on another day. Dictate will read your work back to you; this helps with proofing.