Views & Reviews From the Frontline

Doctors no longer need medical secretaries

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f226 (Published 11 January 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f226

Re: Doctors no longer need medical secretaries

As ever, Des Spence is  rightly being provocative in challenging status quo and stimulating a discussion about new ways of working in the era of immense technological innovations.(1).

But, as many others have pointed out, medical secretaries do more than simply type letters.  Certainly consultant productivity would drop precipitously if secretarial support is removed. 

Across the Atlantic,  where it is quite common for physicians to be directly approachable by patients ( eg email, mobile phone )  they still have secretaries.(2). The use of medical secretaries, in a Market led health economy,  provides strong evidence regarding  indispensability of medical secretaries.

Another minor issue for someone who is not a native English speaker is that speech recognition software sometimes seem to have problem with 
our accents and intonations. And certainly my long suffering secretary is more forgiving. 

I am afraid medical secretaries are here to stay for the time being.

References:
1. Spence D. Doctors no longer need medical secretaries.  BMJ 2013;346:f226

2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Employment Statistics. 43-6013 Medical Secretaries. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes436013.htm (accessed 10 feb 2013).

Competing interests: No competing interests

10 February 2013
Santhanam Sundar
Consultant oncologist
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS trust
Nottingham NG5 1PB
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