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Why disclosing the nature of audio files to your trusted transcription company is important

From time to time researchers approach us asking whether we would like to be informed about the nature of their audio files.  The answer is a resounding yes.  Why?

Having information about the content of the audio helps our typists to more fully contextualise the content, thereby reducing the chance of errors and ultimately producing a highly accurate transcript.

If we know that the speakers in an audio file will be discussing, say, energy use in inner-city office buildings, then we will allocate those files to our typists who have an in-depth knowledge and background in the building, construction and sustainability sectors.   The provision of a list of common acronyms being used in the audio is also helpful.

Then there are added layers of complexity and nuance which, while at first glance may appear subtle, can have lasting consequences, if not addressed.  The disclosure of sensitive or disturbing content is one such issue.

Being responsible with audio file content is important.

Similar to court interpreters, lawyers, people in the helping professions and the armed forces, the issue of typists being exposed to vicarious trauma is real and potent.  The nature of transcription, that is, requiring a written transcript of the spoken word, means that there will always be circumstances where the content is difficult, disturbing and deeply uncomfortable to hear.

Transcripts with difficult, sensitive and disturbing content are used in areas such as court proceedings, mental health assessments, medico-legal documents and a wide array of research projects.

A transcript is still required and a person must still type from the audio, regardless of the nature of the conversation or interview.  However, if made aware of the sensitive and possibly disturbing content of the audio, steps can be put in place to ensure typists are cared for in the most appropriate manner.

There are many steps Pacific takes to ensure our duty of care to our typists and our clients is fully met, especially in relation to audio content that is sensitive or disturbing.  I’ve listed three strategies we take, below.

Planning – To be forewarned is to be forearmed

One important step is planning.  Knowledge in advance enables one to be prepared.  As a part of Pacific’s standard practice, the strengths, skills and experiences of each typist is collected and stored in a secure and password-protected database.  Information such as formal qualifications, previous work experience and areas of expertise can be useful when assigning audio with specific content to typists.

Further, a part of the recruitment process is asking typists to nominate any content they would prefer not to cover.  While these areas can sometimes be quite vague, this information is nevertheless useful.

Knowledge is Power

Client disclosure: As a part of the file upload process we ask our clients to provide notes on the audio, including a brief outline of the file content, where relevant. Clients are encouraged to phone us when they want a more “hands on” approach.  We are happy to talk with clients about their specific needs, particularly in relation to difficult, sensitive or disturbing audio content disclosure.

Typist disclosure: Throughout their time working with Pacific, typists regularly “check in” with the HR Manager and Operations Team.  From time-to-time particular circumstances arise in a typist’s life, and a typist may not be able to type certain content.

A quick word with the Operations Manager or HR Manager is all it takes to ensure a typist does not receive audio files with trigger content, for a period of time.

Share information for greater accountability and transparency

Open Lines of Communication is Key

Although a simple opt-out works in some circumstances, regular communication with the Operations Team and Human Resources Manager and typists remains a helpful method of keeping communication open and making sure we know “where people are at”.

Pacific is committed to meeting and delivering appropriate duty of care to our typists and clients alike.  If you have any questions regarding disclosure of audio file content, our duty of care to you as a client, or other matters relating to your audio files, contact us today. 

About Catherine Byrne

Catherine's work with Pacific Transcription spans many areas, including writing and design, business development, training, and of course, keeping abreast of emerging trends and new products which enhance transcription and dictation experiences for clients.
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