MT Speed Typing

Smartype, a Speed Typing Program / Text document of 13,000 abbreviations

3/97, from Kim Randall, krandall@EARTHLINK.NET:

I'd like to share some of my methods of getting correct answers faster and becoming more knowledgable sooner in the process, which enables me to produce high-quality work -- in spite of my limited experience and in the least amount of time possible.

Although I use WPWin most often for non-MT tasks, I am considered proficient in multiple versions of WP -- DOS and Windows both -- and have even used and like MS Word. I have no particular preference for one version over another -- except when doing MT work. Relating to my MT work, I'm fortunate to often hear things like, "You're the smartest MT we have here" or "how do you find those things so fast?" or "how do you keep up with knowing so much?" Well, I don't "know" nearly as much as others sometimes think I do. It's just that I know how to go about coming up with the right answer faster than most, and it's not because I already "know" the answer. I'm not talking about "faking it" and taking chances -- I still verify that my answers fit. And I'm not talking about typing faster. I am still without a doubt a "newbie" MT, and my knowledge of terminology and experience is correspondingly VERY weak. But I do know how to make good use of the very best tools I've found so far that help me out.

Since I seem to stay continuously excited about how this stuff helps me, it may begin to sound a lot like one of those "how to get rich quick if you buy what I'm selling" paid advertisements or scams. But I'm not selling anything, I'm not talking about how to get rich quick, and I'm not scamming. This is straight from my heart. I absolutely swear by these methods, and I wanted to share a "working example."

By first CHOOSING to use WP51 for my MT work, I am able to then make use of two specific, truly superb, MT resources available only for WP51 -- and I have yet to find anything comparable elsewhere (I'm continuously experimenting). WP51 files can generally be pulled up easily in most of the other major word processors for final formatting/finishing touches if desired -- typing in wp51 is just like typing anywhere, but inexperienced wp51 users sometimes feel that formatting in wp51 is "cryptic" and prefer Windows apps for formatting purposes. You can even go so far as to just "use wp51 on the side" in order to access one of these great resources when you need to, and then still go back to your regular app with the now verified correct term ready for use in the "real" document.

*insert missing

The specific vocabularies I'm making use of here aren't limited to the standard "canned" medical vocabularies -- they've been compiled, added to, and edited by actual "working" MTs who have encountered some pretty "heavy-duty" medical stuff. So I'm also amazingly successful when searching for some of the more unusual, rare, "exotic" or somewhat newer medical terms or trade names. It's truly remarkable how much of this stuff is ALREADY included in these two items by themselves -- these are superb, ready-made tools that are the excellent results of some hard-working, very qualified MTs.

FREE -- just at the asking -- Mary's spellchecker vocabulary file is available if you write her via e-mail. This file includes her extensive medical terminology additions, corrections, and deletions -- so much work's already done for you! She's willing to share this with other MTs, and she can usually send it via e-mail as a zipped attachment. (This is a WP51 system file that won't work in anything other than WP51. Once unzipped, it's the same type of file as the one that comes originally in WP51 -- wp{wp}us.lex -- and you replace the original with hers. I recommend saving the "old" one as wp{wp}us.old -- just in case something goes wrong while you're doing this.)

WP has a utility that allows you to add, change, and delete specifically to its spellchecker main dictionary file (which is what Mary has done), so that way those items will always be included when you use the Look Up function. (By the way, if you're using WP and select "Add" during Spell Check, you're only adding to the supplemental dictionary file, where items will NOT be included when using Look Up. Adding to the main dictionary file is a different process.)

Regarding using Stedman's spellchecker, as of the last time I used it, it wasn't possible to change the contents of its main dictionary file, so no matter how many new terms the user adds during Spell Check, they're only going into the supplemental dictionary file and aren't being included during Look Up. Since I also couldn't correct any items (errors found) in their main dictionary file, incorrect spellings could still pass through spell check. Don't know if this is still true or not. I'm not knocking Stedman's -- I have quite a few of their specialty word books that I consider invaluable for verifying context and searching for phrases.

2/24/97, from Peggy, mlachanc@scfn.thpl.lib.fl.us:

This suggestion might sound a little strange -- it has to everyone else who has heard it -- but I found it useful when I worked on a Meditech system which had no macros, no shorthand, no canned text you could actually make use of, a spellchecker which caused more problems than it solved, and which did not permit easy change to the text once it had been input (no automatic paragraph reformatting and you couldn't back up into the line above except from the beginning of the line, etc.). After it was installed, everyone's productivity dropped by 50% or more instantly, and after 6 months was still about 30% below their previous level.

It was bad enough to be without shorthand, canned text, and macros, but the time we spent screwing around with the spellchecker and cumbersome editing functions was so outrageous -- and so irritating -- that we quickly decided the only way to stay sane while working was to simply not use these functions. So, we needed to avoid having to use the editing functions -- even scrolling was impossibly frustrating -- and needed to avoid having the spellchecker actually find any misspelled words, since if it did and the correct word made the word even one letter too long, the spellchecker dumped you out so that you could use the editing function to manually reformat the document.

The only way to avoid needing to use those functions was to not do anything which required them, and that meant simply not making any mistakes while you were transcribing.

So, that's my suggestion to improve your productivity -- stop making mistakes. If you are anything like me, I made lots of typos and whatnot, and just corrected them on the fly. The spellchecker would catch any misspellings anyway, and you could catch anything else when you proofed. I made LOTS of little errors, and just fixed them. It had never been a problem before, and I had never really looked at the amount of time it took to perform these functions until I was stuck with a system which really screwed them up.

It was horribly difficult to change my style, but I was desperate. I decided to slow down to the point that I was able to type without making typos, and to not start typing to begin with until the text was clear in my head and would not need to be edited once on the page. My dread of having to fix mistakes inspired me to slow down, listen ahead, and only type when I was sure of the final form of the text. It worked really well. I discovered that I didn't feel as "rushed" and tired, actually could work comfortably, and still managed to remain reasonably productive.

It occurred to me that we waste a significant amount of time "fixing things" and we could save all that time by just not making mistakes to begin with. Also, proofing on that system took an eternity, because the thing scrolled so slowly. So, I started proofing while I was working, doing it in the pauses in the dictation. Every screen would be proofed before the text disappeared off the top of the screen.

My suggestion, therefore, is slowing down to the point of never making mistakes, doing as much proofreading as possible while transcribing.


2/97, from Mary:
It's true that once you've learned your own system of abbreviations, it may be too late to benefit from a shared one that has standard rules that can be taught. I have even customized my own copy of my own abbv system to suit my indiosyncracies of memory (and I still use PRD as supplement because some of my Smartype letters are full), but my goal was to make a basic set so that the MTs who have not used abbvs yet would have a jump start on those of us who have spent hours and hours creating our own system. This is the advantage court reporters have had on us since 1890! Because the words and abbreviations appear at the bottom of the screen constantly, it is quick and easy to learn the abbreviations; it does not tax the memory like PRD and FF.

I have been pleased to find out that some experienced MTs who have used PRD, etc., have been able to learn my system with Smartype and go up to 70% keystroke reduction (which is not the same as speed); more is better, and Smartype abbreviates almost every word. But it's the new generation of MTs that love it. I've tutored several of them now using Smartype, and it's fantastic! They call on the phone and ask about a word. I tell them to type in abbreviation and up comes the word on their screen. This is one advantage of compatibility and standardization of language and technology.


2/97, from Mary:
The important difference between programs like Flash Forward, PRD, Quick Correct, etc., and programs like ST, IT and voice, is that they do not have on-screen advisory lists. Smartype, Instant Text and Dragon (voice) do have these lists, and they greatly enhance speed and accuracy. Now, I wonder if there is any other Windows program for speed typing that has an on-screen constant advisory list option? While "Finish" does, it has very limited application and no static vocabulary.
2/97, from Mary:
Smartype can be used in about 5 different ways: (macros and blocks not discussed here)

1. Word completion only, 30,000 words, adding more words.
2. Adding your own abbvs on top of the words or using with PRD, etc.
3. Adding my set of abbvs on top of the words and customizing it.
4. Choosing words by numbers on the list.
5. Just typing everything out and using ST just for spellcheck and dictionary onscreen.

I chose to make a standard abbreviation set for three big reasons:

1. I couldn't stop typing a word fast enough; I needed to know just where to stop. ab=abdomen shows me.

2. Memory is fastest; an abbv system with rules can be learned and are faster than choosing a word from a list.

3. The possibility of persuading MTs to stop reinventing the alphabet with every new account and software program, and sharing a universal customizable abbreviation system instead, like court reporters do.

I haven't given up my dream for the 3rd point, but Smartype is limited to WP51 DOS. If it is not developed into Windows soon, there will be another way....


10/12/96, from Burt Danet:
I have been using SmarType now for about three months. It is a program that, from my point of view, is far superior to any other shorthand program I have researched or used. Until I started using ST, I was using the combination of PRD/FF to try to overcome the limitations each had. However, together they never offered what ST does.

ST is much more than an abbreviation expander. It helps cut down on keystrokes across the board. There are many shortcuts possible, including the incorporation of WP macros for use within ST. In the other expanders, many individual words are never abbreviated because they are not programmed in. In contrast, ST with its comprehensive built-in "speedtyping vocabulary engine" can abbreviate practically every word you type, and it can even abbreviate an abbreviation. The claim of productivity gains reaching 70% and higher are no exaggeration.

SmarType does not yet have a conversion program to convert PRD or FF files over to be incorporated into ST. But it is possible, for those who have programmed a great deal into one or the other program, to use it simultaneously with ST. In this way, all the work you already did in PRD or FF can still be accessed without repgrogramming the same items into ST. The multiple word phrases probably will not present any conflict. You do have to eliminate duplicates, however, or there will be double expansion.

I have found it possible to run ST with both PRD and FF active at the same time. ST, however, has taken over the majority of the work and has cut by more than half the amount of expanding that the other two programs did. Thus the multiple word phrases that I continue to use from PRD/FF represent less than 20% of the total amount of the work being done. ST has taken over the rest and added much, much more.

ST increases productivity far beyond what the other programs can do no matter how much you program in. Using the combo of PRD/FF and then doing the same report with ST alone has documented a huge improvement in productivity (double). That is because there is so much that ST abbreviates that the others do not.

ST is a comprehensive tool that is the most thoroughgoing shorthand system available to the medical transcriptionist. With the use of ST you have the sense that you are working with a tool made by transcriptionists for transcriptionists. It really works.


10/10/96, from Terry M. Brown, D.O., Associate Professor, Director, Sleep Disorders Center University of Mississippi Medical Center
Someone wrote, "The thing I personally worry about most is that new doctors *know* how to type. Most of them can even type pretty fast. I have a few friends in the medical field and many of them just sit down at the computer and type their own notes or letters. They still dictate about half the time (due to the factor above of being somewhere where the computer is not), but they no longer are completely dependent upon someone else for all their typing needs."
I think you are right about this typing bit. I am a physician and my wife is a medical transcriptionist (certified). I have my own database system in which I type in a few lines, mostly make a few mouse clicks of selected sentences in a menu, and out comes a nicely printed report. I also have the ability to run queries on my database. I can redesign the report for various settings, feed the hospital paper into the printer and there it is, discharge summary, lab report, whatever. I feel somewhat guilty that I have no use for my wife's services... But the good news is that I do not feel most of my colleagues are like me-most still cannot type, and large number of us seem to be only partially literate. Many cannot construct a complete and sensible sentence. So I think there will always be some use for MTs. My wife spends the extra time to make the sentences something other than non-sequiters. ( Believe me-I know what MTs have to put up with...)

I have a friend who is beta testing an IBM voice recognition system. It only requires 3 hours of physician time on average to talk into the machine. I have not tried it myself; Mainly because I have no need for it since I type. And of course typing allows me to retain a nice database simultaneously. But even if voice recognition does replace some of you, I think folks who can grammatically correct incoherent sentences will always be in demand. For example, my wife once typed a report by a podiatrist who kept referring to the metacarpal, and she knew there had to be some mistake-that he meant metatarsal, and she was correct. Another time a resident said something insulting about an AIDS patient, and she took it upon herself to delete this unnecessary information, that could have easily resulted in a lawsuit.


8/96, from Burt Danet, DNamron@aol.com
Recently there was a post about Finish, an expander available as shareware, which you can try out and then decide if you wish to purchase. I downloaded it from AOL (search files for Finish) and found the most current version. (There is both a Windows and a DOS version).

Finish "remembers" what you type. After installing it, there is nothing you have to do. No lists or glossaries to prepare. No editing or revising of what it remembers. It is a simple add on and takes about 39K of conventional, though you can get it to run in Expanded and may take only a few K of conventional then.

I have been experimenting with it with other expanders active also. It does not appear to conflict with the other expanders.

As an example, if you type at the GET command in PRD,
C:\PRD\MEDICAL.PP2,
the next time you have to get that file, and you put your cursor in the "get" position, it will flash on the screen the same path (or another if you use more than one), and you do not have to type it all out again. All you have to do is press one of the "hot keys" like CNTRL-A to get that same path to come up instantly.

So it works in DOS, it works at the DOS prompt, and it works in your TSRs and it works inside your word processor.

It also remembers SEQUENCES of words, so that if you have a repetition in what you are typing, and all the words are not in the expander(s) you are using, Finish can insert a word or a phrase, or even a series of phrases that occur in sequence, that is being repeated automatically. This is done again by using the "hot keys" for items that flash up on the screen (it offers 1 to 4 or 5 choices).

This has provided still another dimension of shorthand that otherwise is not possible without it. While you may not use it all the time, it is there as a "fill in" for things that other expanders do not do or have not been programmed to do.

The "remembering" feature is really great. If you are interested in an evaluation copy, you can download it from AOL or other sources on the WEB. It is also possible to make an evaluation copy available to any interested party if you have the software in your computer..

Every little bit helps. There sure is more productivity to tweak out of the computer, and Finish adds some surprises. Amazing that it works with the others without conflict.

By the way, if you try it, give it time to "become familiar" with your work, because it builds over time, and it remembers from prior sessions.

Also if the flashing screens bother you, try deep relaxation!!!! Ignore them when you don't need them and look at them when they might be useful!! I turned off the "beep" so that the flashing screens do not have sounds attached to them.

When you come across some new phrases, as in an operation, it remembers the first time you type it, so even if you haven't programmed the new items yet in the other expander(s) you are using , if you happen to repeat those same phrases a paragraph or 2 later, as often happens, there they are, the same series of phrases popping up -- in correct sequence -- like it remembers the sequence and knows what's next. It can even predict how you will start the next complete sentence!

It also can include the period at the end of a sentence as part of the long form that it remembers. Finish is available from:
http://www.spies.com/finishline/index.html
Innovative Designs phone: (408)985-9255
Suite 245 FAX: (408)247-6624
2464 El Camino Real modem: (408)246-2468 8/N/1/300-2400 baud
Santa Clara, CA 95051 CompuServe: CIS 70402,2003

I have no interest whatsoever in Finish, other than having given it a try.


8/96, from Marie Janz, mjanz@coredcs.com
I work in a hospital and we have been using abbreviation expanders for about three years. The company sort of dumped it on us with their canned abbreviations and we have been adding and learned as we went along. Since the beginning, we have learned a lot. Our system is a shared abbreviation expander, so we try to make things logical and follow the logic, so we can all understand it.

We try to take root words and create an abbreviation for that words, then add different endings, i.e., he=hernia, ihe=inguinal hernia, ihey=inguinal herniorrhaphy, or co=complain, cos=complains, cog=complaining. The other thing we did was all abbreviations are entered twice, once as the word without capitals, the second with a period for the word with a capital, i.e., co=complain, cox=Complain. We also use a lot of phrases such as tpi=the patient is, tph=the patient has, tpwbts=the patient was brought to surgery.

We have an unwritten rule now that if you cannot figure out the abbreviation for a word or phrase in 2-3 tries, you can add it anyway you feel is a more logical abbreviation. From the postings in Angelfire, I am under the impression that some of the abbreviation expanders "read" capital letters, so that is not an issue.

Some of the women in our office are working in two different offices. One woman is on the same system in both places; however the other office just started their abbreviations and, of course, do not want to hear her advice. New employees have brought in things they have learned and now it is too late for us to change a lot of the abbreviations (one place uses /=and, so they use this in things like h/p=history and physical, c/s=culture and sensitivity, we use n=and, so now run into the problem of not being able to use "n" very often in abbreviations.

Currently, I work on WP5.l, we are using Chartscript, but that could change some time soon, we are all concerned and afraid of going backwards. After reading some of the discussions, I am concerned as we will probably be going to windows and forced by the corporation to use MS-Works. So, this leads to many more questions . . . Currently, we are dependent on normals and macros and the abbreviation expander. Of major concern is the issue of macros and will we be able to "re-create" them so to speak on MSW? Hopefully our leader will continue to be able to understand all sides of the issues and keep us moving forward.

I agree with the idea of creating universal abbreviations, especially when the people I know work so many offices and equipment, it would really be of benefit to them and their employers. I don't see the harm in letting people learn and use abbreviations when they are learning to transcribe. As always, I do not think new transcriptionists use the dictionary to find what they are looking for, not using abbreviations will not change that. Transcriptionists need to be encouraged to pull out the dictionaries more than the quick reference guides. Definitions clearly let you know if the word is the right one.

The abbreviation expanders have reminded me of court reporters, but I don't know enough about court reporting to adequately compare the two. One person I know who does court reporting, loads her disks into her computer and the computer retypes the text changing the abbreviations, but she has to then proof everything to look for cases where she may have used the wrong abbreviations. That sounds like double work to me. I like having the abbreviations print out immediately what I want. I have learned the hard way (I missed the word appendectomy in a cataract procedure - oops!) to pay attention when using abbreviations when doing the report.

6/96, From Burt Danet:
Mary wrote, "I use ST with PRD for overflow too, which probably means I'm working with 68,000+ entries now. Any idea how many you are working with? Smartype in your version comes with 30,000 or so I think. It is fun not to have to think, "Do I have an abbreviation for that word?" as most all words have one now, but I do still have to think that for combined words, and am still finding things to add!"

My ST has 32,500, I think. I have 14,000 in FF and of course PDR is maxed out at 8,000 but with all the endings for one word,there are really many more than 8,000, don't know how many, but venture a guess, maybe triple or quadruple. So if we take PRD at 24,000 and add in the other two, we're talking maybe 70,000. FF has some ending capabiltiies, also, which are not figured in there -- you can create "tion" by typing capital T at the end of a word, or ZA for zation, or IZ for ization, etc. No limit to what you can do there. I have about 40 or so endings in there. They come in handy when all else fails, and just add another dimension to it.

It's a rich set of resources with ST added into the picture, and I don't really need to program multiple word phrases in ST because so much is done in the other two. But it is possible to eliminate conflicts, and so I have been just getting rid of identical or similar abbreviations in the other two. Also it is necessary to make incompatible codes that bring up stuff in ST that I don't want to happen compatible by adding "/" at the end of the code in FF or PRD. Thus all will be compatible and mutually exclusive in the future, so there will be no conflicts or double expansions. Have to be very careful, of course, editing-wise, until this process is complete.

For example, "w" brought up "with" before and "ws" brought up was. ST had "w" bringing up was, and "wi" was with. Before I discovered it there were a bunch of was's in there that should have been withs and so I had to go back and manually change those was's that really shoul have been withs. To overcome this I just went into ST and changed "w" to bring up with which is what I am used to, and "was" is now brought up by "wa" which seems to make more sense.

Anyway this is a minor problem. The main innovation is that ST works so well with the other two and that the 3-way combo actually works well. This would not be expected because they didn' t plan for it. Joe recently wrote they never anticipated anyone using ST with other expanders, because in their view ST does it all. Well it can do it all, but why reprogram seven years of work into ST when PRD and more recently FF are doing it just fine and are compatible?

I think that all possibilities should be accounted for. All people's preferences should be held out as possibilities, and there should be no restrictions. I breathe a sigh of relief to see the potential now, it is so much better than before. ST really adds a huge dimension of capability which just was not there before.

Mary wrote, "When I use a term in PRD, it doesn't come up on the list or line to reassure me like the words in ST." Yes, there is no reminder from PRD. But I'm "training" both PRD and FF to have multiple word abbreviations that do not conflict with ST. Whenever they both want to operate at the same time I stick "/" at the end of the abbreviation in PRD or FF and then it comes up without allowing ST to react to the letters in the abbreviation. This is working well, though at first it is ploddy to insert all the "/"s.

The only way to tell if an abbreviation for a phrase is not in there is to put in the letters followed by "/" and see if it comes up. Alternatively, since PRD is automatically at the cursor alphabetically you can use the hot key to pop up the PRD screen and instantly you will see if the abbrev. is there or not and then if yes use it and if not put it in. This takes only a split second and I do not find it disruptive. Otherwise you won't know if PRD has it or not. FF is harder to access because you have to hot key into it, press F2 and then do a manual alphabetical search, much more cumbersome.

All in all, the combo is extremely helpful because if one doesn't have it, the other does, and among all three, especially with ST's capabilities, it is possible to really max it out. Unfortunately ST does not include a keystroke-savings counter like PRD has, and both PRD's and FF's are unreliable now because they don't recognize the other's expansions, and of course who knows how ST fits in, but even without statistical documentation we know we are on the right track. Ordinarily things don't work so well together. I'm amazed how it all has come together.


6/96, From Jean I.:
Regarding choosing options on menu with your eyes: I haven't seen the technology yet but the company president told me that they have a small video camera that monitors your eye movements and finds out where you are looking at. Sounds impressive? It is - but no more surprising than cameras that autoadjust distance. You are worried about continuous speech? Your grandson will be retired before it is really usable. Moreover, my point in mentioning this was that I believe that it is possible to go FASTER than speech: I can dream of coupling Instant Text with this technology and select long long phrases instantly, and then select their continuations also instantly.
6/96, From Bob Willard:
After giving the new Smartype just a cursory test drive I'm definitely beginning to have second thoughts about my previous position concerning abbreviations. I'm truly impressed with ST, which strikes me as being more of a true "shorthand" typing program than just a word/phrase expander like all the competitors I've tried to date (including PRD+, which I use now). The program is very clever and intuitive, but it's also flexible enough to allow a user to customize it in virtually every respect to his or her individual needs.

My previous opinionated stance was based on the fact that I had not been impressed at all with the other expander programs I tried which included their own medical lexicons. However, Smartype is a different breed of cat! I can foresee, for a creature of habit like me who is accustomed to using PRD+, a learning curve of approximately two weeks to a month before I really begin to reap any significant benefits from Smartype or even get to the point of efficiency where I am now with PRD+ (since I've been using it for five years and it's extremely productive for me). Beyond that, I would envision several subsequent months of "fine tuning" Smartype for my own needs. That's the point at which I believe I can eventually gain a substantial increase in productivity over my present production.


6/96, From Stephanie Haase:
I've seen a lot of talk about Smartype out here, and I just wanted to add my 2 cents worth. I have been using it for about 2 weeks and I am really loving it. I have never used any of the other shortcut programs before, so needless to say, this sure as heck beats just using the WP macros!!! Not only does it make typing faster, but I've found it to be an excellent reference source. Just type in the way a word sounds, and you usually end up with the one you are looking for. I have been spending a lot of time customizing it to my use, and I also pulled the abbreviation lists off MT daily and have added most of them in. Anyway, I honestly believe it's worth the money, and if anyone wants to ask me about it, I'd be happy to answer.
6/96, Debbie Hahn
Now that I've used Smartype for a week or so, I agree that Smartype is the sort of thing that should be taught from the beginning of MT. At the seminar, we addressed the idea of abbreviation expanders, whether they should be actually taught in the curriculum or not. The consensus was that they should not, because they didn't want to plug any particular one, so they agreed there should simply be an overview of all the different ones available and a brief look at how they worked, then it would be up to the individual MT later on to decide which one - if any - they chose to use and learn. Most of the seminar participants were up in arms, like here on the group, about MTs needing to learn the real words before resorting to abbreviations. I can understand that point. But as far as when/whether to teach expanders, they were mostly referring to PRD because none of them have Smartype or had even heard of it much.
5/96 (name withheld)
Sometimes I wonder about the subject of SPEED when transcribing. Sitting here alone, cranking out my reports, I sometimes think -- am i SLOW or what.... sometimes I feel sort of inadequate and wonder if others feel the same way...I use smartype and hot keys for macros, but I still feel that there are limits. How can you type faster than the doctor speaks? If you "speed him up" you lose sound quality. And I find if I try to push myself to type faster, I start losing the content/context of the dictation and make more errors as far as choosing the wrong word or punctuation. I mean, our little brains still need to process what the doctor says and check it to see if it makes sense, we can't just blindly type what he or she says, so we have to THINK while we are transcribing, and I don't see how you can push the envelope of speed too far -- or maybe I'm brain dead and everyone else can process this faster. A case in point, I was listening to a blank for a friend over the phone--she looked at her document and said, now why did I type "Neck: Subtle" Well, when I listened to her blank and heard this part too, it was because that's exactly what the doctor said, even though it should have been "supple." I guess what I'm wondering is, are there any others out there like me who feel like they PLOD along while others are zipping by. I sometimes feel bad that I haven't gained tremendously in speed when I'm using the latest and greatest production aids -- what am I doing wrong? It seems that I have heard comments from others here and there who have said that for some the abbreviation programs help some but not in any tremenously noticeable speed improvement. BTW, I LOVE smartype and wouldn't trade it for anything - I am not nearly "in the books" as often as I was before, and it's so EASY to add new words.
6/96, From Burt Damon:
Someone wrote, "The biggest challenge for me personally is really just the ongoing personal challenge of seeing how far I can go in "beating my previous personal record" -- and if I earn additional money in the process without having to put in a like amount of additional time to produce that volume -- then so much the better!" You have hit the nail on the head. Otherwise you're beating yourself down, making negative comparisons with others who are "better." Thanks for giving us this perspective.
5/96, From Mary Morken:
When I first got PRD, I erased their whole vocabulary and started from scratch, thinking it would be easier to memorize what I created. It took time to devise abbvs that didn't conflict, but after some months I reached the limit of 8000, and probably only used about 4000 of those.

Smartype and IT function with word lists by frequency right on the screen, so memory is not so burdened, and I found that it was an advantage to have Smartype words already loaded, unlike PRD. Expecting people to create their own abbvs, perhaps several thousand over a few months' time, is reasonable. However, I was going for a complete language, abbreviating everything possible, and it took 6 months, 2 hours a day of my time to devise 17,000 abbvs and add 5000 or so words as well, for a total around 65,000 now. I don't think many people have the time to create that much of a customized system for themselves. Several experienced MTs have been able to learn it and use it, with only a two-week learning curve, and two are going as fast as I do with it.

Having said that, perhaps the regular smartype of words would not be as offensive to those who fear it compromises learning for students, since the whole words are there, even if you only have to type the first few letters to print it. I think we can have both quality and speed learning--in this work we need both.

Consider the possibility of typing itself, from the start, being taught as something that could be done with less keystrokes. What if someone was already using an abbreviation system, or smartype or IT type system, for nonmedical typing? This takes the question outside the medical transcription training issue...it's a language shortcut issue, shorthand for the keyboard idea.

I think what we will need is an experiment of some students to be trained from the start with one of these programs, to see if it gives them an advantage or hinders their learning. I learned math before calculators If someone knows of a teacher of MT who would be interested in this kind of experiment, please let me know. I think we could get some free software programs for them to test.

I do think MT and court reporting are similar in some ways, and I know that even with court reporting steno language they customize and create their own a certain amount. Those of us who have created our own systems probably can't really judge what it would be like to learn a system someone else has created. It's the students who will teach us what is best for them perhaps. I agree that meaning and spelling are important to learn, but adding another symbol wouldn't detract from that necessarily, and would simply be part of the whole. Standards can save a lot of time....and can be shared. That is my hope. There is still room for customizing and creating.

As for my hope for an abbv system others can use, the jury is still out on this, and I consider it still worth research and experimenting, despite strong opinions against it on this board. Have found a teacher who may use it with her students and see how it works. If you try Smartype, you can use the same abbvs you have in your PRD on top of Smartype's system. If you load them together, load PRD first, and it will overwrite anything that conflicts with Smartype. You may not be able to go any faster, but you can enjoy the stress reduction on your hands when you use less keystrokes.

Several MTs are using my abbvs. They were not new MTs and were able to learn them. Others have tried it and opted to create their own. I myself had to learn the system I created, because I had to think of standards rather than idiosyncratic ways; in other words, I followed some logical rules that would always apply, so others could learn, I could learn, and it would be easy to remember. Thousands of terms were abbreviated with one simple rule of the first two letters of the first part, the first two letters of the second part, of the word or phrase. I've also had MTs write me for ideas on how to create their own abbvs, and they have used the examples I have listed on MT Daily at abbvlist.html.

As soon as I finished enough abbvs to form a core of 17,000 (which has now been pared down to 15,000), I customized my own copy to some of my own likes. I've kept adding to it as well. I say this to correct the notion that it is a totally static predetermined set of abbvs. Also, all the smartype words are there as well, but I found that I typed too much of a word with ST, didn't know when to stop when I was going fast, but if I had it printed there on the list or memorized as: al=also, then I would more likely just type al instead of also. So even if I could have used ST for word completion, I prefered the abbv so it would help me type less.

After dragon, I realized that even combining two words helps you keep up with the doctor, and if you keep the phrases to 2-3 words, you are more likely to be able to use them for many different doctors. Thus George's examples are not so good when you do hundreds of different doctors, but if you cut his sentences up into 2- to 3-word phrases that are more common, you can use them lots. Another reason to do that is keeping up with the doctor instead of having to wait for a whole sentence before you can type in your abbv. Thus I did all the "was" phrases and preposition phrases. When using PRD, I tried to memorize the original list but it isn't seen like on ST, so I had a hard time. Using PRD, I could only remember nouns mainly.

Now I have another idea for another Smartype add-on, (which is what my vocab will be) and that is a numbered abbv system using the Smartype list. Remember, using Smartype is using reading skills more than spelling skills, and it is more accurate than spelling, and it has built-in spellchecker that beeps as you go. It is more accurate than using PRD because you see it on the list before you expand anything you are unsure of.

Bob, regarding your 900+ abbreviations, do you think if you didn't have to memorize them that using more would be better? With PRD I got 40% at top, with ST I get 70%. I think that is better, and even if it wasn't better with speed, it is so much more relaxed and a stress reduction, especially not having to look things up in books as much, like drugs.

When I started dragon and smartype, I had to use the vocab already provided, and I wouldn't have added anything if they had been adequate. I do think it could save other people time and money to start with a basic set, but perhaps newer MTs will find this easier than those of us who have created our own customized wheels for so long.

My preference was to make my vocab public domain and get others to improve it, but I decided after research that linking it to a software would give it more chance of being worked on, improved, refined and standardized. So far I'm still finding that true, and while I did sell it to Smartype (for percent of future sales only), I'm not working for Smartype or selling for them. All advertising on MT Daily is free still. We are posting information that we feel is helpful to the MT community. I don't like slick advertising and try to keep stuff on MT Daily informational. I'm trying to keep my priority my transcription and online networking with MT Daily. I'm not starting an organization or doing paid consulting.

I am convinced that my present system with ST is the fastest, most accurate and most relaxing I've tried. But in a year, continuous voice is coming out....and I'm planning to try it with Smartype.

I agree with statements you have all made regarding need for flexibility, versatility, customizability of a system. For simple accounts that have no long unique narrative, we won't even be needed for long perhaps, as this is the kind of transcription going to canned systems the doctors can use directly, whether by clicking on boxes or using voice commands.

I do need more info about Boston company I've read of on Prodigy, can't seem to find it. They advertised for proofreaders for "automatically generated text" from tapes directly into computer--in other words, voice can be turned into text file mechanically, but still needs 100% proofreading apparently. They were paying by the hour. Does anyone know anything about this? I have heard of it before, but I think the doctor has to be trained and use codes some, and I've not heard how accurate it is.

If you do only a few doctors or only ER notes, you won't have the same need as those of us who do many different doctors in the course of a week. I do three different large hospitals with all specialties. This was why my vocab was excellent to use for a base vocabulary of abbreviations, since it included a wide variety. Hopefully Smartype will create some specialty vocabs too, but I think every MT is wise to be prepared for the variety and the long narrative in the long run.

I don't agree with statements of totally personalized systems. I'm convinced that just like the alphabet, the more we can share our ways of doing things, the better we all can perform, because we can learn the best from each other instead of being stuck in the rut of the way we have always done it. Of course we have to adapt to our own way of doing things SOME, but everyone can use al=also, t=the, p=pain, etc., if they haven't thought of it and don't have an abbv that conflicts with it. Not everyone can take six months to create a system that covers all words. I did create my vocab with the hope of a "standard" that could be used by others, but that is something that will have to happen over time, and may the best system win! When I use continuous voice, I will use the same abbvs in speaking that I now use in typing, so I won't have to talk as much as the doctors and can listen better, and I can go from voice to typing easily, since my voice gets tired.

I still use PRD for 1500 phrases I've not had time to switch to Smartype, and because I ran out of room in the C, P and S files. It works fine with ST. I'm all for variety and individual choice, but I also believe that COMPATIBILITY and STANDARDS open the way for more to be done -- we could not be networking by computer without those two.


5/96, From: Christine Myers:
One of the things that was recomended to me by my mentor - learn the proper way to do Medical Transcription before trying a program like Flash Forward. Once you feel comfortable with the transcribing, begin using FF but try only entering 5 to 10 new terms at a time. Use them for a week and then add 5 to 10 more. This lovely woman told me how she stayed up almost all night entering abbreviations for almost everything she could think of...and the next day couldn't remember most of them. She deleted her entries and started over, doing a few at time!

I agree that you should learn transcription without the short forms. Not every job you take will have a short forms available. I took one test at a hospital and they had FForward but I was not allowed to use it. It "belonged" to the full-time MT on staff and the abbreviations were ones she entered herself. Anyway, I think it's important you learn how to transcribe, spell, and define the terms you are learning. I know one time at the local hospital the power was down for hours after a bad storm. The generators would only support minimal systems. No on-line dictionary, no spellchecker, no short forms. Ouch!


5/96, From: Donna, DAVILACMT I have used PRD for at least six years and it is the best invention since the agitating washing machine. I do believe that an individual just learning transcription should learn to transcribe BEFORE implementing any shorthand programs. I think they should learn how to spell the entire word before learing how to abbreviate it. Remember the old days when Rapidtext used to market their shorthand equipment at conventions for MTs to learn? Some of the hospitals here in California even purchased this technology to train their MTs on. It was a disaster. A good resource for this would be Hazel Tank in San Diego. I think she has had some information about services in that area that attempted the same type of training. Develop the skills and then learn the shortcuts - don't put the cart before the horse.
From Mary Morken:
It is possible that general typists will someday be entering MT training already using Smartype or Instant Text for common English words. Both of these programs use a different approach to short cuts than PRD, not relying on memory so much and providing better accuracy and proofreading, not relying on spelling so much as word-recognition skills, and lessening wear and tear on the hands. This competitive market may cheapen our standards, or it may help us to discover better ways to do MT, with better speed AND accuracy, helping us stay on the "power curve" in the face of technological and other changes.
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