How to choose your digital dictation supplier

Ceri Rothwell, Managing Director at Medisec Software, explores the key features you should look for in a digital dictation system – from ‘choose your own’ hardware capabilities to thumbs up from clinicians.


Digital dictation is a method of recording and editing the spoken word in real-time within a digital audio format.  Digital dictation and transcription can be a great way to increase work output in healthcare, freeing up clinicians to focus on other priorities safe in the knowledge important correspondence is being produced in a timely and accurate manner.

Whilst digital dictation standalone is a good technology, not all of the possible benefits will be completely recognised unless you team this software foundation with excellent clinical correspondence workflow technology.  This combined approach truly enhances process and workflow within a Trust and transforms ways of working, resulting in maximum return on investment and benefit realisation.

Beyond the basic functionality features of a digital dictation system that one expects to see from most experienced software companies, Trusts should also seek out the below key elements in a digital dictation partner for a truly integrated digital dictation and workflow solution that adds tangible value.


  1. Integration experts – now and in the future

Digital dictation systems often have to work alongside pre-existing hospital systems, including various PAS and EPR software, to create a truly seamless process.  You may also want the assurance that the system will be able to respond to any new systems put in place at the Trust in the future promoting best practice interoperability.

Ensure your digital dictation provider has a breadth of integration and interoperability experience so that any integration needs are effectively executed to provide the best workflow experience possible for your users.


  1. Hardware agnostic

When sourcing a digital dictation system, a key question often overlooked is whether the software gives you a choice in hardware.  Many suppliers work with only one hardware provider, and often provide that hardware directly as a reseller, which can mean NHS Trusts may not always get the best fit price and specification for them.  Also, check that the system is backwards compatible where hardware is concerned to ensure there is no mandate for a costly hardware upgrade.

Ask suppliers whether you are free to source your own digital dictation hardware should you choose, giving you flexibility to work to a specification and cost model that suits the Trust.  This approach provides an element of future proofing too – should the hardware need to be changed there is reassurance the digital dictation system can integrate with other options, without a hefty price tag.


  1. Flexible, auditable workflows

No two workflows are the same, so it is important your digital dictation system supports workflows for speciality-led transcription, centralised transcription service and outsourced transcription too. 

Map out your own workflows in early discussions with suppliers, and ask them to demonstrate how the digital dictation software would enhance processes and how they would respond to the ongoing development and change of your service.


  1. Management reporting

It is crucial to be able to review throughput and productivity of the digital dictation and transcription process to keep the service running smoothly and avoid any difficult correspondence backlogs.  Practically, it’s important to be able to report on workload and outstanding transcriptions, whereas strategically a Trust needs to understand whether targets are being hit and any overall trends.

Reports should be simple and quick to run at Trust level, with both strategic and operational oversight where needed to help better support and plan for the service. 


  1. Tried and tested (especially by clinicians)

Having a digital dictation supplier that has experience working with the NHS is important, so be sure to look at their reputation and customer base. Ideally, you will be able to speak to other NHS organisations that have used the digital dictation software, including managers, clinicians and administration staff, and read case studies with efficiency and performance statistics.

It’s particularly important that clinicians buy in to any new process, so asking for testimonials from other clinicians about how the system made their working lives easier will give credibility.  If possible, take the time to visit an existing customer site to view the software operating in a live environment.


  1. Additional modules

Digital dictation and transcription is a core part of any Trust’s clinical correspondence journey.  However, there are other services that can be used in tandem to further enhance document creation and delivery, such as speech recognition, voice recognition and electronic sending to GPs.

Seek a supplier that can provide you with a fully integrated ‘end-to-end’ speech mic to GP solution using the same technology, which can be scaled up according to your needs and priorities. 


For more advice and guidance around digital dictation and effective workflow, contact ceri.rothwell@medisecsoftware.co.uk or 01829 730189.

Medisec Software Eastcastle House , 27/28 Eastcastle Street, London, W1W 8DH

For all support enquiries email medisecsupport@dictate.it