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Medical Transcription: Tips for Using Macros

By Anne Martinez

Macros can prove quite handy for automating tasks you perform frequently while doing medical transcription work. A macro is a recording of a series of actions grouped together. You can execute the macro with a single key press or key combination called a hot key or keyboard shortcut.

For example, preoperative and postoperative diagnoses are often the same, so a surgeon may dictate the first diagnoses list and then say “same” for the second. You have three options for handling it:

  • Add the new heading “Postoperative Diagnoses” and retype the diagnoses individually. This is the slowest and most error-prone method.

  • Select and copy the preoperative list, and then paste it back into the document and replace the title of the copied version with “Postoperative Diagnoses.” This is better than the preceding option, but slower than the next one.

  • Create a macro that does the copying/pasting for you and assign it a keyboard shortcut, such as Alt+F5. Every time you run across the “same,” just hit Alt+F5, let the macro do its handiwork, and you’re on your merry way.

The best-known macro maker is the one built into Microsoft Word. Macros that perform basic tasks, like moving around a cursor or cutting and pasting, can be easily created using Word’s “Record Macro” feature.

More complex macros require programming skills. Because the steps to create a macro vary between versions of Word, the best way to learn the right steps for your version is to fire up Word’s Help feature and search for “record macro.”

Standalone macro tools bring the power of macros to your entire computer. AutoHotkey is free software that allows you to automate almost anything you can do with your keyboard or mouse, not just inside a particular program, but virtually anywhere on a computer that’s running Windows.

With it, you can get really deep into automating, even creating macros that include muting your sound card, opening and closing individual windows, copying and pasting between programs, and more.

Creating and using macros is substantially more complex than using expander software, but so are the tasks macros can perform. Whether you should use them comes down to your MT needs and how tech-savvy you are. Macros can be helpful, but they aren’t essential. Expander software, on the other hand, is essential.

If all this talk about expanders, macros, and shortcut systems has your mind buzzing with questions, head straight to Productivity Talk. There, you’ll find lots of friendly folks who are experts on all this stuff. It’s a great place to discuss the merits of different word expanders, shortcut systems, and macro making. Although it’s not just for MTs, many hang out there.