Using a Word Expander to Make Your Life Easier

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2007 issue of Stepping Up

(official newsletter of Career Step)

What good is a word expander?  To put it simply, a word expander is good for saving keystrokes.  The productivity benefits are obvious, but did you know a word expander can improve your accuracy as well?



I tend to divide my word expander entries into three categories:  words, phrases, and boilerplate.  “Words” are, unsurprisingly, words.  “Phrases” are several words used together.  “Boilerplate” refers to larger blocks of text, such as a physician’s physical exam or review of systems.  Let’s look at how you can make the most of these, starting with words.



Take the word “refer.”  An MT will hear that word a lot.  “Refer” is also a root word, with a number of suffixes that can be applied.  You can take advantage of this pattern in your word expander and save yourself a lot of keystrokes over the course of a day. 



ref = refer


refs = refers


refg = referring


refd = referred


refc = reference


refl = referral


refls = referrals



The short form can be whatever you will remember best.  Keep a consistent pattern for the suffixes.  When possible, use a short form that will trigger a spellcheck hit.  “Ref” is not in the spellcheck lexicon, so if for some reason I type “ref” and it didn’t expand as intended, the spellcheck will flag it for me.  Think for a moment about what it would mean to have an unexpanded short form in a report.  Imagine an editor seeing it.  Or your supervisor.  Or the client. 



I also have months of the year in my word expander.  My own preference has been to have “Feb” expand to “February,” and “Jany” to “January”  (I don’t use “Jan” for “January” since “Jan” is a personal name, not just a nickname for the first month of the year), and so forth. 



Another kind of word to add is the typo.  “Teh” and “wtih” are two words I’ve had in every word expansion program I’ve ever used.  You’re the best judge of the words that give you the most trouble, so when you realize you’ve just backspaced and retyped a word that you always mistype, make a word expander entry.



Moving on to phrases, a good word expander lets you take advantage of a physician’s habit of using the same phrases regularly:



ayk = as you know


ayrem = as you remember


isbn = it should be noted


appopp = appreciate the opportunity



One of the more obvious applications of boilerplate is for the review of systems and physical examination, but that’s only the beginning.  If you’re transcribing business letters, think about how the physician dictates the opening of his/her letters:



Today in my office I saw [patient name], who as you know has a history of….



Thank you for this referral.  As you know, [patient name] is a….



It was a pleasure to meet your patient, [patient name]



Or a typical closing:



Thank you for letting me participate in this patient’s care.  Please do not hesitate to contact me for further questions or suggestions.



Going back to the ROS for a minute, here’s a look at a typical ROS boilerplate:



No fever, coughs, colds, or chills.  No dizziness or loss of consciousness.  No palpitations.  No chest pain, shortness of breath, orthopnea, PND, or bipedal edema.  No nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain.



When using an ROS (or PE) boilerplate, you cannot let your brain go to sleep as the physician dictates.  You need to pay attention and change the findings as dictated.  I find a good way to keep myself on track for this is to set up the ROS and the PE ahead of time.  As soon as I realize the physician is going to be dictating an ROS and PE, I enter my boilerplates, then when the physician reaches that point of the dictation, the text is already there for me to review.



To organize physician-specific boilerplate, I use the physician’s initials as a prefix, then an abbreviation for the kind of boilerplate it is.  Let’s say I have an account with a physician named Frank J. Doe, and Dr. Doe dictates letters and clinic notes:



fjdltr = (Dr. Doe’s typical framework for a letter)


fjdros = (review of systems boilerplate)



fjdpe = (physical examination boilerplate)



A good word expansion program is a valuable tool for today’s MT.  Use your word expander to help you automate routine tasks, even small tasks that only taking a few seconds to do.  A few seconds here and there add up to minutes or even hours over the course of a workday.