This blog is part of a series on transcription. If you haven’t read the other blogs in this series, make sure to check out the summary page for a listing of all transcription blogs.
As any medical transcriptionist will tell you, expanders truly are your friend. For anyone new to the transcription business, a text expander is a program where you can type “hpi” and it will expand out to “History of Present Illness,” a phrase used often in the MT world. This is just one example–there are literally millions more. Text expanders, when used right, can save a transcriptionist countless keystrokes and hours while working. I have heard estimates as high as 60 – 70% of the typing done by a medical transcriptionist can be done by a text expander, although of course that may end up being very different in each individual case.
Other than the shorter phrases (such as “History of Present Illness”) you also have cases where a particular doctor will say the same paragraphs (yes, I do mean paragraphs) over and over again. I had a friend whose doctor would say, “Physical exam paragraph” and that was her cue to hit “pep” and have it expand out to the same physical exam paragraph that this doctor always said. This saved the doctor a whole lot of talking, and the transcriptionist a whole lot of typing.
So how do you find a text expander? Well, the good news is, one comes with Word for free, and if you are still in a medical transcription course (such as M-TEC, Andrews, or Career Step) you may want to stick with the Word version. If you are interested in becoming an employee as a medical transcriptionist (as opposed to being an IC,) you have a high chance of getting an expander when you get hired on with the company anyway, and nothing messes with your mind like learning one system of text expanders and then having to switch to a new system. It is akin to switching from Qwerty to Dvorak and isn’t something you want to do if you can help it. If you are sure you are going to become an independent contractor when you graduate, you may want to think about buying a text expander while still in school because it can be a huge help to start using an expander before you go out into the big bad world of transcription for the first time. And if you are a working transcriptionist right now, what on earth are you waiting for? Go forth and buy! You will not regret it!
Now that we have a bit of a feel for what expanders are, and when you should be looking at buying one, let me go more in-depth into each kind: Free (the one that comes with Word,) Instant Text, and Shorthand. Please know that there are other types out there, but like transcription schools, I can’t cover every kind of expander under the sun. Instant Text and Shorthand are the two most popular expanders on the market, so I thought that I should focus on those two. These expanders are for Windows; if you are using a Mac to go to school, you may want to look at Type It 4 Me, which I have heard is a great program for Macs. Of course, please remember that most MT companies require you use Windows while working for them.
Next stop: AutoCorrect in Word!