Low-Cost Apps and Web Sites for Maximizing (Medical) Writer Efficiency

‘Tis the season of resolutions and getting things done. Whether your goal is to get more work done, get your work done more quickly, or spend more time not working, these apps and web sites will help achieve that goal. They are in order of the most time saving value (although in some cases, difficult to quantify such a value), but try them out for yourself.

You may receive many emails where you find yourself typing out the same response over and over again. If that’s the case, try using PhaseExpress, which works on Windows, or TextExpander, which works on iPhone/Mac. With one click, you can expand text or insert whole paragraphs of pre-written text. The PhaseExpress program costs about $50. It will save you hours.

Speech Recognition
The speech recognition programs still don’t quite work as well as one would want especially with challenging medical terminology, but every year, even the basic versions seem to get better and better. I’m using my computer’s built in speech recognition to write this blog post. It helps to use a microphone such as the Logitech ClearChat Comfort/USB Headset H390 when dictating.

Rescue Time
RescueTime is a program available for PC or Mac and runs in the background as you work at your computer. It detects what programs you are working on and rates your productivity level. It also gives you a once weekly report of the number of hours you have actually been working at your computer, and it doesn’t lie! The standard version works really well and is free. A premium version has a few more bells and whistles and is available for $9.00 a month.

Another tool that is pretty amazing and negates the need to get that wireless recording line and digital recorder setup is TapeACallPro for both iPhone and Android. It works well for recording both incoming and outgoing calls by dialing into a third party line. The pro version costs about $10. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to work with and produces a very high quality recording. It also has a super easy-to-use interface that allows you to share the recording with DropBox, Google Drive, or Rev.com for transcription (more about that next).

If you are still transcribing your own recordings, more power to you, but know that for $1.00 per minute of recording time, you can get your recordings transcribed while you earn a higher hourly rate on other things. I have used Rev.com many times, and have always been satisfied with the quality, although they are not specialists in medical terminology (if you need that, go to Lindy @ transcripts-now.com). Recordings from Rev.com usually come back within 24 hours. The web-based interface, once you have created a username, is extremely easy to use.

ScheduleOnce is a fantastic scheduling tool that I had already heard about, but I was a little cynical because it seemed complicated. But then someone sent me a schedule request with it, and I was able to book a call instantly at a time that worked for me on that person’s real-time schedule.There was no back-and-forth by email. It was extremely simple. I also think it looks very efficient to clients when you use this program. It’s about $5.00 per month for the lowest level of service and integrates completely with Google Calendar and Outlook.

Pomodoro Tomato
The Pomodoro Tomato App ($0.99), available on iPhone or Android, sounds weird, but it is a very cool productivity tool that uses the Pomodoro Technique. It’s an automated alarm that allows you to work for 25 minutes (or whatever time period you set). Then you take a timed break for 5 minutes and it signals when it’s time to get back to work. It helps you stay focused and you find yourself bearing down on tasks so as to get them done before the 25 mins is up.

Last Pass
Rather than searching that text file or going down the “lost password” rabbit hole, make things easy and get LastPass which automatically fills in your passwords. It’s easy to set up, and it’s free.

Refresh is a free app for iOS and Google Glass (not yet for Android) that acts as a consolidator of the available social media on a person. Refresh searches your calendar to find out who you are meeting, then it searches various social networks, blogs and websites, emails. Shortly before your meeting, Refresh sends you a notification so that you can walk into your meeting better prepared to interact with that person. If you meet someone unexpectedly, you can use the “Explore” tab to search real time. If you link your Evernote account to Refresh, Refresh will find any notes you’ve written about a person that include their first and last name and their company name. Pretty scary but very intriguing!

Not sure how time saving this is, but it’s very useful. Lynda.com is an amazing resource where, for $25 per month, you can learn anything you’d want to know about any kind of software that you’d want to use as a medical writer. This includes a deep dive into Word, WordPress, PowerPoint, training on social media. They even have courses on efficiency tools, how to improve your memory, and how to read faster. It’s a great way to learn additional skills that you might be able to provide for your clients and speed up your workflow. The training programs are all extremely high quality and given by knowledgeable teachers.

Apple’s iTunes Podcast App
This isn’t really a time saving tool, but if you like to exercise or have to drive places and want something to listen to, try doubling up on your time usage by listening to any number of podcasts available on any topic these days. I have a couple of podcasts coming up soon (one called Medical Writing 2.0 and one called GrammarStyle, all about the AMA Manual of Style… stay tuned! questions please email.



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