Letters, calls and emails: Voice processors are the best way forward

Dear Editor

Following my column on voice processing, a number of readers have asked for details (GP, 28 September).

I have been experimenting with Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 preferred version (DNS9).

Other voice processors are available but I haven't tried them recently.

DNS9 is available from computer shops and the internet for around £130 +VAT for a single user. I'm not aware of anyone who stocks it on a try-before-you-buy basis.

One excellent feature of DNS9 is its ability to import words from pre-existing documents and e-mails, so even though the software does not come with a specialist medical dictionary, you in effect import one, and you can create new words for its dictionary at any time. DNS9 is also able to cope with dialects and accents.

In the surgery I find this stand-alone system is at its best when transcribing referral letters or longer free text notes. As a result my staff no longer type letters. I find it more fiddly to use in the normal patient note entries which involve mouse clicks and macros (though it works here) - but one-finger typists may differ.

You can issue system commands using voice alone ('Click OK ... click file ... click save') though whether this will work inside your particular clinical system is something you would have to test for yourself.

Next is voice processing that is completely integrated with the clinical software. I gather this is available for all the major GP systems: one such supplier is Hands-free Computing (www.hands-free.co.uk). The cost is vastly greater; if you are thinking of buying one, check it out thoroughly.

Dr Chris Lancelot, Lancashire.

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