Transcription Musings - 2 - How I came to be an IT user

Posted by Sharon Allred , Fri, Sep 06, 2002, 17:11:17 Reply   Forum

Transcription Musings - 09/05/02

Hello again IT friends. Thank you for your positive response to my first column. In that column I promised to relate the story of how I came to be an IT user (and now ardent supporter).

During my years of home health transcription, I never used any text expansion software or shortcuts and did not know such tools were available. I was paid strictly by the hour, and my duties always included various and sundry other tasks in addition to transcription. However, when I moved to hospital Medical Records transcription and incentive pay, I quickly realized productivity was an important commodity if I intended to make a viable living doing what I loved to do. I also realized that MTs in my department who used PRD+ (the old standby for diehard WP 5.1 users) produced about double the number of lines per day we two "newbies" produced. As mentioned in my first column, I enjoy having and spending money, so I decided if they could learn to use PRD+, so could I.

Within a matter of weeks, I rapidly built a PRD file that was large but cumbersome. I spent time adding entries haphazardly, then could not remember later my short form for a particular word or phrase. A couple of months later, because my file was so large and disorganized, I spent even more time reorganizing my file for greater productivity. I wish I had realized that a system of organization would have saved many hours spent sorting and reorganizing all my entries. This entire reorganization process could have been eliminated had I given some thought to a systematic way to remember and add entries. I hope new IT users as well as seasoned users who need a file "clean-up" will benefit from suggestions I have learned the hard way.

For those unfamiliar with PRD+, it is (was) a memory-driven program. There was no split screen available for jogging one's memory while transcribing--it was only in the memory bank of the MT. The program also eliminated the possibility of more than one expansion for any given short form. For instance, "cp" could only be "chest pain", not cerebral palsy or cardiopulmonary. Additional long forms had to have a unique short form. I always had to remember that "cpu" was "cardiopulmonary" and "cpa" was "cerebral palsy". (Memories of this limitation make me appreciate IT all over again)!

PRD+ was further limited in that no short forms could be actual words. Imagine my embarrassment to have an ER report returned because I had added the short form "mom" with the corresponding long form "milk of magnesia" and had transcribed, "The patient's milk of magnesia accompanied him to the emergency room". I soon realized I had to pay close attention to my expansions instead of daydreaming while transcribing.

During my third year of hospital MT, I lived through (and survived obviously) the switch from WP 5.1 to MS Word. Those who have lived through this experience will well remember the stress associated with this transition, but, like me, I'm sure you survived. Along with that software change came the shocking realization that PRD+ would not work in a Windows environment. Horror of horrors! MY PRD+ file now contained 8000 entries (the maximum allowed by the program). I knew those entries well because I had systematically organized them in a way that allowed me to remember quickly. I was averaging between 2500 and 3000 gross lines a day (how I was paid at the time). With the change from DOS and Word Perfect to MS Word, and the loss of PRD+, I just knew I would never be able to make any money--ever. I was to the point of considering asking for a job at WalMart (not that there's anything wrong with working at Wal-Mart-- I was afraid that was the only job I could find because I was illiterate outside of the DOS/Word Perfect domain.)

During this overwhelming transition I attended an AAMT meeting and received a pamphlet on Instant Text. Could IT be the answer? I called the number and was assured that, yes, my PRD+ file could be imported to IT, IT would work on our hospital's system, and I could (with some modification in my options), use IT like PRD+ had been used (memory-driven). For the first time, there was a glimmer of hope I could remain an MT.

For the first week or so, I'm sure I called Marianne a hundred times. The excellent customer support provided at Textware Solutions made a believer out of me. I emailed Marianne my PRD+ file, and she imported my file to IT and gave me specific suggestions on modifications to improve my productivity. I had several PRD+ short forms that started with numbers or symbols, and these had to be changed to short forms with alpha characters. She was wonderful support through a very challenging transition.

Now, four years later, I look back and wonder how I could even remember all those entries and wonder if I could even use WP 5.1 now. The process was stressful but resulted in decreased keystrokes but an eventual increase in productivity.

Subsequent columns will address the necessity of systemic organization of one's personal glossary. I will then begin specific tips for adding entries to increase productivity. As mentioned earlier, if I had used a system when I started enthusiastically adding entries to PRD+, I would not have had to spend hours reorganizing the file later when I reached the maximum of 8000 entries. I already have that column partially written, as the subject was an outflow of this one.

See you next time!

Sharon B. Allred, CMT

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