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 customer’s systems or way of doing things so they can better configure and make use of available technology to help them do it better, faster, for less. cost, whatever the customer seeks to win.
I started my VA career 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 firms. Some use document management software, others 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, by 1952 recorded dictation was established as “a time saver over handwriting and stenography among lawyers, doctors, and other professionals.” The first mini cassette recorder was marketed in 1973. Do you believe it? That same little tape recorder still in use in most businesses in the US today is the technological equivalent of listening to music on an 8-track!
In any case, if your business uses tape-based dictation, then it’s clear that recording the company’s actual work product is a good way of doing things, and if your business doesn’t use dictation, perhaps you should start with digital, 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 (portable calls and recorders) for over a decade. Why? Upgrading to a digital dictation process provided hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, and insurance companies with:
o The ability for clinicians to work remotely with nothing more than a phone or portable recorder and internet connection
o Centralization of document workflow for multi-user, 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 staff costs
The way I see it, a business of any size has as much to gain as a similarly sized doctor’s office by upgrading to a digital dictation process, so the question remains, with so much to gain, why haven’t they? done? (Read the above list again, with your business in mind.)
Why don’t companies use digital dictation?
The main reason, I think, is that no one has assembled 2%2B2 yet. Since digital dictation technology is not “new”, it has not received much attention outside of the medical industry. Recently, however, 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 didn’t your company upgrade to digital dictation?”
Number 3: “Digital dictation, isn’t that voice recognition?”
No, speech recognition is not digital dictation. Speech recognition is software. It takes the human voice and converts 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 businesses.
Digital dictation is the recording of your voice with software or equipment that provides dictation functions: stop, rewind, insert, etc. With digital, however, the recording doesn’t go to tape, it’s saved as an audio file (ie .wav, .dss). Unlike speech recognition, digital dictation requires a transcriptionist and software to write down the recorded thoughts.
By the way, one of the reasons I firmly believe that voice recognition software can never replace a good legal secretary/transcriptionist: no matter how much you train it, it will never be able to detect when you say “defendant” and you should say “plaintiff!” “! 😉
So while you may have heard or read about the pitfalls of voice recognition technology, digital dictation is a different animal entirely.
Number 2: “If it ain’t broke…”
Yes, it’s true that tape dictation works and has worked for decades, but so does a typewriter, an abacus, and 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 recorded (tape), to digital (sound file).
When upgrading to digital, the thing to note is that those doing the recording no longer need to be in the same physical location as the person doing the transcription, or in today’s parlance – 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 itself 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 staunch dictators, upgrading to digital dictation provides reporting and tracking of each file as it travels through the process or all the metrics that a tape-based dictation system simply can’t provide. Hold up a tape and ask a lawyer what is on it and see what he says! However, if it were a digital file, you would always know the date and time a file was created, by whom, how old it is, which client it is for, what it refers to, and more.
So, from the administrator’s and dictator’s perspective, upgrading to digital dictation provides a huge improvement in the way work gets done.
and… my all-time favorite response to…
“Why hasn’t your business upgraded to digital dictation?”
Number 1: “We don’t like change.”
I’m not kidding! I have heard this exact phrase more times than I care to admit!
Plus of course this answer helps me realize that companies can take forever to make a decision, it presents a big conundrum. Why? When upgrading to digital, there’s not much change 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. Truly 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 a tape to his secretary (or leave it on his chair), by upgrading to digital, dictators don’t “do” anything. different. .
wrapping it all up
At some point, every business must weigh the pros and cons of any technology upgrade. With more and more hardware and software needed 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 successfully tested, implemented, and used in environments of various sizes for over a decade.
IMHO, this should make upgrading to digital dictation a must for any company’s tech budget in 2009.