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Spell-checking for medical phrases

UK medical spell-checker software can save everyone time, says Dr Nigel Kendall.

It is said that the average person's vocabulary is around 2,000 words, but after completing a medical degree that that is doubled - it is inevitable that some part of this will present spelling problems.

While computer spell-checkers help, they are limited to everyday words and have very few medical terms.

There are programs that extend the spell-checking facility of common word processors by adding medical terms to the spell-check database. However, most are limited by being written for the US market, so 'hemoglobin' and 'fetus' would remain uncorrected.

As someone who is still vaguely resentful of the Americanisation of the drug name 'furosemide' and keen to avoid the same thing happening in medical terminology, I was pleased to see that Spellex has a UK-oriented dictionary.

It is available for most common word processors, including WordPerfect and the venerable Lotus AmiPro, but not the increasingly popular Open Office. I downloaded the version for Microsoft Word 2002, referred to as Word XP by Spellex.

Installation is relatively straightforward. I did need to change a setting in Word, but it was explained in the installation instructions.

Usage could hardly be simpler; when the spell-check is run, medical words are checked for accuracy and suitable alternatives suggested. Spellex claims a dictionary of 300,000 words, which includes all sorts of obscure terms.

Depending on which word processing software you use, prices for Spellex start at £70 for a single-user licence. This is probably all that is needed because the most likely person to use it would be the secretary. Multiple licences cost extra.

Annual updates

There is an annual update download service available for £50. I initially felt that this is a bit expensive but, on reflection, creating a UK-specific dictionary for a relatively small market compared with the US presumably costs extra.

Benefits include more professional looking letters and an easier life for the secretary, who no longer needs to look up words in a medical dictionary. Even the GPs may have an easier time because they will not need to advise on spelling.

There is one other feature worth a look on the website. If you go to www.spellex.co.uk/ ezspell/ezdemo.htm, there is a box for entering words, which is free and apparently offers unlimited use. If you click and drag the icon at the left-hand end of the address bar to the desktop, you will have an instant shortcut for spell-checking.

- Dr Kendall is a GP in Wrexham, North Wales

SPELLEX INFORMATION

Software: Spellex Medical - for spellings of over 300,000 medical words; Spellex Pharmaceutical - for spellings of OTC drugs, prescription pharmaceuticals and more.

Prices start at £70 for single users and £348 for 10-user licences, depending on compatibility.

Compatible with: Microsoft, WordPerfect and Lotus platforms.

More information: www.spellex.co.uk

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