It wasn’t so long ago that patient records consisted of paper documents created from hand-scribbled notes made by the doctor. Transcriptionists deciphered the details, compiled them, and stuffed them into manila folders tabbed with the first few letters of a patient’s last name. It was inefficient and time consuming, but it worked.

Then came dictation in the 1980s, giving doctors the option of speaking their notes into a voice recorder, from which the transcriptionist interpreted the encounter details and entered data into the patient file. Then came voice recognition software, which ended the bulk of word-for-word typing by transcriptionists. Now, paper files have given way to electronic medical records—digitized information now resides in vast databases accessible at the touch of a button.

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