Digital Dictation Capabilities

November 28, 2007 at 1:36 am 3 comments

Digital dictation and transcription falls into 2 categories frequently referred to as point-to-point and workflow.

Complex workflow, either document-centric or relationship-centric, will mandate a system that can support these needs.

Equally, the firm’s requirements may be more modest and be adequately met by a point-to-point system.

The following set of questions will help uncover the real needs of the firm.

What digital voice recorders and transcription hardware types are supported?
The Digital Speech Standard (DSS) is designed by the 3 member companies – Philips, Olympus and Grundig. As such, the hardware from these companies will be the most widely supported by all the digital dictation vendors. Seek to understand the pros and cons of tethered devices such as the Philips SpeechMike, Olympus DirectRec and Grundig DigtaSonic ranges versus the various mobile recording devices, e.g. the Philips DPM, Olympus DS and Grundig Digta ranges.

The following digital dictation systems (in alphabetical order) are not part of the DSS organisation, but have incorporated interoperability with the DSS file format – BigHand, Calison (Dictaphone) Crescendo, DictaPlus, DPS Team Talk, G2 LegalSpeech, Lexacom, NCH, nFlow, Quickscribe, SpeechWrite, Verdatum and WinScribe. NOTA BENE: the level of interoperability for these vendors varies widely. Ensure you validate the extent of support for the DSS.

The following digital dictation systems are not party to the DSS, but do have compression algorithms – Panasonic, Sanyo and Sony.

Are the hardware drivers for the audio recorders and transcription hardware integrated into the software or do they run as a separate package?
Being part of the digital dictation package makes for an easier roll out.

Can the software be rolled out by MSI? If so, in how many packages?
This is a major point to consider for the ease and cost of both initial roll out and updates / upgrades.

Can the system be centralised?
Rock-solid WAN infrastructure will be needed if this approach is preferred.

Does the system have some automated process for Microsoft SQL backups?
This will be necessary to restore the system to the latest possible point in the event of a disaster.

Can the digital dictation system application service run in multiple instances, e.g. one in each office?
This will provide failover protection, providing elegant disaster recovery and load balancing.

Can the system support multiple separate audio file stores?
Keeping the audio recordings on the LAN will keep WAN stress to a minimum.

Does the system have a telephony dictation interface?
Seek to understand the details of its level of functionality compared to the PC dictation interface.

What are the workflow engine’s capabilities, i.e. flexibility, auto-escalate etc?
If a workflow system is preferred, is it to be relationship-centric (lawyer / secretary) or document-centric (witness statement / deposition / letter / fax / conference recording etc)

Can the system receive audio recordings attached to emails, strip them out and submit them into the specific lawyer’s workflow?
If so, ensure the details of its level of functionality compared to the PC dictation interface are understood.

Is mobile audio recorder synchronisation embedded in the digital dictation application?
If synchronisation is separate to the application, this adds to the number of applications running on the clients.

Does the system support Citrix / WTS for streaming dictation and transcription?
Some systems are one-way, some use Citrix sound capabilities, some systems have optimised their own way of streaming… there are significant differences in the systems.

Does the system support mobile audio recording device synchronisation over Citrix / WTS?
This can be very handy for the lawyer who insists on using a mobile recorder only.

What is the system’s Management Reporting like?
Just saying they have reports is not enough – get the details as well as an understanding of their ability to tailor reports.

Is the system integrated with document management systems? Can it be?
If so, ensure there is an understanding of what is meant by “integration” as well as the pros and cons of using that integration. Systems include Open Text LiveLink, Interwoven Worksite, EMC Documentum, Axxia, LexisNexis Visualfiles, Thomson Elite ProLaw, Worldox, and IBM’s Lotus Domino.

What is the size of the audio recording on the vendor’s recommended setting?
All the vendors will say that recording quality can be selected but get their recommended setting and pilot that recommendation.

In what audio CoDec’s are the audio recordings within the system?
Understand the reasons for the selected format.

In what format are the audio recordings when they are exported for archiving?
This is a very important consideration in the age of electronic discovery.

Can the system slow down or speed up audio recordings during transcription?
Most say they do, but test it – some give very poor sound quality when speed is changed.

Does the system correct for pitch when it does slow down or speed up the sound files?
An important consideration…

Does the system support roaming profiles?
Exactly how do the systems accommodate the travelling lawyer especially?

Does the vendor offer 24×7 support?
It may be needed… it may not… but check what they mean if they say they do.

Is the status of the submitted dictation easily monitored?
Oddly, some systems do not provide a transparent work queue.

Does the system allow for dictations synchronised with a mobile audio recorder to be selectively submitted to the work queue or, conversely, maintained in the Drafts folder?
Some systems automatically submit all jobs upon synchronisation and thereby negate the advantage of having a Drafts folder on the mobile device.

Can the lawyer see who is actually transcribing the dictation?
Very helpful for the lawyer to manage client expectations on the Priority 1 jobs…

What alerts are there for incoming jobs to be transcribed?
Some systems have the flexibility of different notification methods for different priority levels.

Can a floating secretary / typist log on to another PC and see their work queue?
Some systems only allow a single work queue to be visible, rather than a work queue specific to the typist.

Can a supervisor access a typist’s work queue and reassign jobs?
Very important if a typist rings in sick or goes home unexpectedly.

Is the system integrated with VoIP platforms?
What do they actually mean with their claims?

Does the system allow the transcriptionist to lock out a number of jobs, transcribe them and then synchronise back into the system?
Very handy for the remote typist so that they do not need to remain permanently connected to the database.

What format sound files can the system import?
There are many conversion utilities, but it would be best if the more common formats are supported, especially those from the Courts.

Does the system integrate with speech recognition in both front end and backend modes?
The younger, laptop owning lawyers are increasingly looking to speech recognition from companies like Dragon from Nuance and SpeechMagic from Philips.

Is there a web-based administration screen for ease of access whilst off-site?
This is especially handy for the law firm’s own Help Desk if they are contacted after hours.

Does the digital dictation system’s audio recorder application automatically save every few seconds to ensure recoverability in the event of unexpected PC shutdown?
Despite it being good practice to submit multiple manageable chunks of a long dictation, some lawyers will dictate very long jobs. They will not be happy if their PC crashes and the system did not auto-save while they are recording.

How do the dictations get profiled?
Interface to practice management, DMS or matter management? Drop down list for field filling? By the secretary? Practice Management Systems include Thomson Elite, Aderant Expert, and Axxia.

Can the system insert content into the sound file?
Some systems can insert text, docs, images etc into the sound file. Useful if it is needed…

If not, can it make an association between the sound file and some other content e.g. template, precedent, hard copy etc?
Lawyers will frequently refer to a document. It can be handy if the system can link off to it automatically.

Is there a way to easily determine and handle those dictations that have Hard Copy Edit associated with it?
This is a useful function to prevent typists in remote locations opening a job, realising it has associated hardcopy, and having to exit the job.

Does the system reconnect automatically to the network in the event of network outage?
Users should not have to worry about reconnecting.

Can the lawyer dictate whilst not connected to the server?
Useful in the event the network goes down – they can continue to bill their time.

Can the dictations be password protected?
Apart from the obvious, this is also useful for the HR partner working on internally confidential matters.

Can the lawyer choose from workflows specific to their needs?
Some systems are quite limited in their submission options – off to a centralised work queue and that is it. Others can provide more elegant options.

Can submitted dictations be recalled by the lawyer?
This saves time and effort when the lawyer realises an amendment needs to be made.

Can the typist import a dictation for a lawyer, with the system ensuring the job is included in the relevant reporting statistics?
This is useful for the lawyer who walks in with a lot of dictations on the mobile recording device and just hands it to the secretary.

Can “Chinese Walls” be set up?
Some systems can – some cannot.

On dictation, does the system continue to record for a fraction of a second after stopping or pausing to avoid voice clipping?
It is very frustrating for the typist if the last part of each utterance between pauses is clipped and it will result in incomplete transcripts.

On playback, does the system automatically rewind some fraction of a second for ease of transcription?
Tape systems have been doing this for years – the digital dictation system should too.

What sort of alerting system can be configured, e.g. for late jobs?
Auto-upgrade to priority? Auto-re-route?

Can externally generated sound files (e.g. from the Courts) be imported and submitted to the transcriptionist?
The receipt of digital voice recorder files will be more and more frequent.

Is there an FTP upload capability?
Useful for large sound files external to the firm.

Does the system have a 360 degree secure workflow whereby dictations can leave the firm to be transcribed by an outsourcer and returned?
This will have increasing relevance in the age of non-core services, including transcription, being outsourced to virtual assistants.

What is the financial strength of the vendor?
Check out their corporate profile as well as their digital dictation project delivery experience.

What access is there to the digital dictation system developer?
A very important consideration for any development / integration work especially.

Under what project management methodology does the vendor deliver?
A large installation will require formal skills and management of the project itself, e.g. Prince2.

What reference sites does the vendor have who are willing to speak openly without vendor involvement?
This will speak volumes for honest appraisal of delivery performance.

Charles Christian of Legal Technology Insider maintains an invaluable source of information as to what technologies have been implemented by the top 250 firms in the UK. The Times newspaper of London also described Charles’ The Orange Rag as “the definitive online resource for the latest news about legal technology”. 

You can also stay up to date on issues specifically related to digital dictation and audio recording at this blog:

What training resources can the vendor provide?
Rolling out to a large number of users will require significant training resources.

How are dictations reassigned from an individual typist’s work queue?
Some systems have drag ‘n’ drop capability for the supervisor.
Does the system have an API for integration to other systems?
If so, what support is there for development work?

Does the developer provide an on-line resource for FAQs?
This can be especially helpful for after hours issues.

In our next post we will talk briefly on the topic of costs.


Entry filed under: dictation, Digital Dictation, law, Transcription. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Secretaries’ Transcription Needs Digital Dictation Costs

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Samual  |  April 11, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Thanks for giving such a nice information on Digital dictation & Audio transcription.

  • 2. Andy Braverman  |  June 2, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    We’ve found that the most flexible and cost effective means of dictating for lawyers is via a Call-In Dictation System.

    And our DIGITEL SYSTEM is the only simple to install, easy to use, feature rich, and amazingly affordable Call-In Dictation System available anywhere on this planet!

    With a 30 day money-back guarantee (which by the way, no one has ever taken advantage of), and free installation, setup, and user training support, its beyond amazing.

    No more dss compatibility issues to contend with, no more delays in getting the dictation to the transcriptionist, no more useless recorders because the batteries are exhausted or the memory is full. No more wasted time during commutes. No more wasted secretarial overtime.

    With DIGITEL, just a more pleasant dictation experience that truely helps you get more done in less time.

    Our free online demo will show you how… call to begin a demo… 1-631-828-1245.

    Thank you… and Happy Dictating! :-))

  • 3. Jay  |  March 4, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Hi, great article. By the way I noticed that you have linked PRINCE2 to, so I thought I could let you know that is actually the official website for PRINCE2. That link could be a bit misleading, and a potential risk (not that it really matters) for copyright issue.

    Thought to let you know.

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