In my profession, it is common to ask a lot of questions. Really, it is necessary. A virtual assistant is someone who has to know as much as possible about a particular client’s systems or way of doing things in order to better configure and use the available technology to help them do it better, faster and for less cost, be it whatever the client seeks to win.
I began my career at VA almost eight years ago and limit my practice to virtual assistance to the legal industry. Over the years, I have asked many attorneys, law firm administrators, paralegals, human resource managers, private investigators, IT administrators, managing partners, office managers, secretaries, and others about the processes used in their law firms. Some use document management software, some don’t. Some have websites, some don’t. Almost without fail, when asked what lawyers use to dictate, the most common answer: a tape recorder.
That’s good, because dictating is a very efficient process, even with a tape. According to Dictaphone, recorded dictation was established in 1952 as “a time saver over writing and shorthand among lawyers, physicians, and other professionals.” The first mini cassette recorder was released in 1973. Do you think so? That same little recorder that is still used in most US businesses is the technological equivalent of listening to music on an 8 track!
In any case, if your company uses tape-based dictation, then it is already understood that recording the company’s actual work product is a good way to get things done and if your company doesn’t use dictation, maybe you should start with the digital one, so read on. .
Why upgrade to digital dictation?
Although not as old as dictation itself, digital dictation has been around for quite some time. The medical profession has been using digital dictation technology (handheld and call recorders) for more than a decade. Why? Upgrading to a digital dictation process provided hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, and insurance companies:
o the ability for clinicians to work remotely with nothing more than a phone or portable recorder and an internet connection
o centralization of document workflow for multiple users, multi-site operations
o the ability to monitor work in progress and overall productivity
o the ability to track and report various metrics and criteria
o the ability to use remote transcriptionists and save on personnel costs
The way I see it, a company of any size has as much to gain as a comparable-sized medical practice by upgrading to a digital dictation process, so the question remains, with so much to gain, why haven’t they? done? (Read the list above again, keeping your business in mind.)
Why don’t companies use digital dictation?
I think the main reason is that no one has collected 2% 2B2 yet. Since digital dictation technology is not “new”, it has not received much attention outside of the medical industry. However, recently, British and European law firms have been in the news discussing how the upgrade to digital dictation has been easier and better than expected.
What happens here in the US?
Listed below (in reverse order) are the top three responses I’ve received over the years to the question, “Why hasn’t your business upgraded to digital dictation?”
Number 3: “Digital dictation, isn’t that speech recognition?”
No, speech recognition is not digital dictation. Speech recognition is software. It takes the human voice and turns it into text. Speech recognition software requires training for each specific user – hours of training for most applications, making implementation of this technology impractical in most business environments.
Digital dictation is the recording of your voice with software or equipment that provides dictation functions: stop, rewind, insert, etc. However, with digital technology, the recording is not placed on tape, it is saved as an audio file (ie .wav, .dss). Unlike speech recognition, digital dictation requires a transcriber and software to write the recorded thoughts.
By the way, one of the reasons I strongly believe that speech recognition software can never replace a good legal clerk / transcriptionist: no matter how hard you train it, it will never pick up when you say “accused” and should say “plaintiff”. ! 😉
So while you may have heard or read about the pitfalls of speech recognition technology, digital dictation is a completely different animal.
Number 2: “If it ain’t broke …”
Yes, it is true that tape dictation works and has worked for decades, but so does a typewriter, an abacus, even a compass. Upgrading to digital dictation is not a solution, it is an improvement on a known process. It is the natural evolution of dictation: from human (secy), to engraving (tape), to digital (sound file).
When upgrading to digital, what should be noted is that the recorders no longer need to be in the same physical location as the transcriber, or in today’s jargon – they can work remotely! Depending on how the capture process is set up, as long as company dictators have access to a phone or the Internet, they can produce billable time.
Since the dictation file created with digital is electronic in nature, it can be manipulated in the same way as any other computer file: stored, routed over networks, etc. This makes the dictation file much more convenient and easy to use in today’s electronic environment (networks, multiple offices, document management software, retention requirements).
Along with remote work opportunities for business dictators, the digital dictation upgrade provides reports and tracking of each file as it travels through the process or of all the metrics that a tape-based dictation system simply cannot provide. Show a tape and ask a lawyer what’s on it and see what it says! However, if it were a digital file, you will always know the date and time a file was created, who created it, how long it is, what customer it is for, what subject it belongs to, and more.
Therefore, from both an administrator’s and a dictator’s perspective, upgrading to digital dictation provides a vast improvement in the way work is done.
and … my all-time favorite answer to …
“Why hasn’t your company upgraded to digital dictation?”
Number 1: “We don’t like changes.”
I’m not kidding! I’ve heard this exact phrase more times than I’d like to admit!
Aside, of course, from this answer helping me realize that companies can take forever to reach a decision, it presents a great puzzle. Why? When upgrading to digital, there are not many changes in the process for the dictator. In fact, Olympus and other major manufacturers even have portable digital recorders in their professional lineup that have a slide switch. In truth, a digital recorder that mimics the functions of an analog recorder.
So when set up correctly, aside from the fact that a lawyer doesn’t have to get up from his chair to hand over a tape to his secretary (or leave it on his chair), when upgraded to digital, dictators don’t “do” nothing different. .
Wrapping it all up
At some point, every company has to weigh the pros and cons of any technology upgrade. With more and more equipment and software required to stay competitive, it’s no wonder no one is looking for another “upgrade.” However, unlike much of the technology available today, digital dictation technology is not “new.” It is very stable and has been tested, implemented, and used successfully in multi-size environments for over a decade.
This should, IMHO, make an upgrade to digital dictation a must for any company’s tech budget in 2009.