For how unfathomably complex the human body is, and for all the thousands of things that can go wrong with it, doctors and other medical workers would likely be very lost if not for medical transcription. The simple process of having a textual reproduction of whatever is dictated saves hours of time, many headaches and helps doctors treat more patients more efficiently. But the practice of recording tests, reports and procedures didn’t happen overnight. Here is the evolution of medical transcription.

Transcribing With Typewriters

Medical transcribing started in the 1960s the good old fashioned way – doctor’s reports would be written by hand, derived from preliminary notes made by the physician, and then filed away until they were needed again.

The proliferation of typewriters in the 1970s allowed for more detailed transcriptions to be created, but the process was slow and fraught with errors. If a medical transcriber misspelled a word or a name, he or she would have to stop transcribing, manually correct the mistake (using erasers or correction fluid), and then resume.

Electronic typewriters allowed for some corrections to be made in the event of mistakes, speeding up the job, and allowing doctors and transcribers to cover a wider vocabulary and range dictation topics.

This improvement in the field led to the first calls for specialist medical transcribers, individuals who would be trained in the jargon and procedures of medicine in order to produce faster & more accurate transcripts.

The Computer Revolution

Computers soon replaced electronic typewriters, and the medical transcription process evolved as well. It became clear that the practice of medicine could make far-reaching use of the possibilities that computers offered to medical transcribing. Businesses and agencies (like were formed to contract transcription work to hospitals. As computers became cheaper and smaller, medical transcribers were able to work out of their homes, thereby encouraging even more people to sign up.

The 21st Century – Speech Recognition Software & Instant Transcribing

The evolution of computers pulled medical transcription into the 21st century. Speech recognition software – where the doctor simply dictates his or her notes into a program, which creates a text document itself – has relegated the medical transcriber to an editor, merely ensuring that the syntax and formatting is up to standard, and not responsible for the actual creation of the transcript itself. Further advancements in the field might lead to the creation of software that is so accurate, a human eye will no longer be necessary to maintain accuracy.

Digital storage and cloud computing have revolutionized the storage and transfer of transcripts and the audio recordings from which they are made. As transcription agencies outsource their work to more people living across the country (or indeed, the world), there could conceivably be a medical transcriber ready to start working at any given hour of the day, within an hour of a doctor submitting an audio file to be transcribed. E-mail ensures there is no delay between the completion of a transcript and an agency and/or physician getting his/her notes back, allowing for more patients to be processed in a shorter time span.