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Medical Transcription: Tips for Using Dual Monitors

Setting up your computer to use multiple monitors will forever change the way you work with your computer, not only for medical transcription, but for everything else, too. It’s very easy to do, even if you’re “technically challenged.” Once you do it, you’ll wonder how you ever got by with one measly monitor for so many years. The figure shows what a typical multi-monitor setup looks like.

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Why is this such an incredible productivity booster? Consider how many times each day you switch back and forth between a document you’re working on and references you’re using at the same time. Medical transcriptionists do it constantly, because referencing is a key part of the job. (Perhaps you also check Facebook or e-mail, but this is for medical transcriptionist productivity here.)

With a single-monitor setup, you can look at one application or the other, but not both at the same time. With two monitors attached to your computer, you can have both (and potentially more) visible at the same time.

You may think switching between application views is plenty fast already, especially if you the use keyboard shortcut Alt+tab to do it. That sensation of speed is misleading, because every time you flip between screens, your mind has to adjust, too.

When you return to the document you’re transcribing, you have to find your place and mentally pick up where you left off. You have to do so while holding what you just referenced in your mind. You might sometimes have to go back and look at the reference multiple times.

The reality of medical transcription work is that you’re paid only for lines you produce, not time you spend referencing, so the quicker you can find what you’re looking for and get back to cranking out lines, the better. All that flipping back and forth consumes time and mental energy that could be better spent boosting your paycheck.

By adding a second monitor, you can keep your transcription software always in front of you on the primary monitor and never switch away from it. Dedicate the second one to referencing, instant messaging your supervisor, and tasks like checking e-mail. No more flipping back and forth on one screen!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A current desktop or laptop computer running a reasonably recent version of Microsoft Windows

  • An additional monitor with cable to connect it to your computer

Microsoft online will gladly walk you through dual-monitor setup using various versions of Windows.

Usually all you’ll have to do is plug your new monitor into an open video connection (a port) on your existing computer, and Microsoft Windows automatically detects and configures the new monitor. Then you can make adjustments regarding how you want the monitors to work. For example, you can opt to treat the two monitors as separate screens or as if they were one continuous screen.

If you want to connect a second monitor to a laptop that has no external video connection port, you can create a monitor connection using a USB port instead. You’ll need a VGA to USB conversion cable to pull it off.

The one potential tricky spot is that the new monitor’s cable type must be a match for the opening (port) you plan to plug it into. If you’re buying a new monitor, make sure you pick one (and the cable to go with it) that’s compatible with your computer. Most modern monitors have multiple connection types built in.

Of course, your second monitor doesn’t have to be modern, it can be a hand-me-down and still work fine. If you end up with a monitor that doesn’t have the right kind of connector, you have two options:

  • Attach a video adapter to your computer to change the connection type.

  • Replace your current video card or install an additional video card with the needed connection type.

Even if you have to hire a computer whiz to replace your video card, it’s well worth the cost for the productivity you’ll gain in return.

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