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Use digital dictation for referral letters

Microphones that record directly to your IT system can speed up referral letters, reports Dr Neil Paul.

For some time I had been unhappy at the way I and the 14 other GPs at the practice handled dictating referral letters. Some did them during consultations while others left them until later.

Finished tapes were dated and put in a basket. Letters were not being produced in the order that patients were being seen and there were delays between dictating and signing. The only way to prioritise letters was by putting them on a separate tape marked 'urgent'.

The solution was Philips SpeechMike Pro 5274 dictation microphones, which link directly into USB ports on each GP's PC and allow audio files to be recorded into the IT system.

The supplier offered us a month's free trial and told us that no one ever gives back a SpeechMike. I can understand why.

Easy to use
To use the microphone, you simply press the 'record' button. For each recording you can cut and paste patient details into the name field and add any other information needed on the PC.

The SpeechMike has all the usual features: forward, rewind, record and play. Plus you can record over old material or insert information without wiping what is already there.

The quality is excellent and after pressing the 'end' button - once for normal, twice for high priority - your dictation is stored on your server and ready to be keyed in.

The doctor does not have to be based at the same site as the secretary. But they can still see the list of work to be done and where their own letters are in the queue.

The secretaries can split the work more easily. You can even open dictated material again before it has been keyed in if you want to make a change or add something else.

As I no longer need to search for a machine or tape, I now do my letters straightaway so they are ready for signing sooner.

It only takes a small amount of instruction to become proficient in using the SpeechMike. It is so well liked that even one of my change-resistant partners has been heard to praise it. We also have a better grasp of the progress the secretaries are making because we can now see how they are getting on.

SpeechMike advantages
Philips SpeechMike Pro 5274

  • Easy to use
  • Avoids hunting for tapes and dictating machines
  • Can be used remotely
  • Helps track letters
  • Costs around £150 per unit from Philips distributors.
Dr Paul is a GP in Cheshire

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