Medical Transcriptionists Take Their Case to Washington

Members of the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) and the Medical Transcription Industry Association (MTIA) were in Washington this week pleading with federal lawmakers for recognition of the important role they play in the healthcare industry. In their defense, they came armed with a recent report that found, among other things, that their job title could not and should not be eliminated in favor of speech recognition-based dictation software solutions.

In the report, prepared for the AHDI and the MTIA by Bentley College in Massachusetts, researchers concluded that "speech recognition technology is only a transcription tool and not a transcription replacement. The job involves too much professional intelligence and sense-making ability to have it migrate completely to speech recognition.

The report also found that the introduction of speech technologies into the dictation and transcription process has had a mix of good and bad affects on the way that transcriptionists are compensated. "The majority of MTs are paid per production unit. Most generally, this is per line," the report states. "The introduction of speech-recognition technology has changed this equation, with MTs being paid as editors, resulting in a decline in per unit pay."

On the plus, side, however,the report also notes that, "an increase in productivity (due to reading versus typing) will offset the decrease in per-line pay."

Additional information in the report—which can be found on the MTIA Web site—cites a growing number of other concerns plaguing the medical transcription industry. Among them is an aging workforce and a shortage of young people willing to step into the career path, a growing number of job-related health problems, such as vision and repetitive-motion disorders, and increasing pressure from healthcare providers to cut costs.

Peter Preziosi, CEO of the MTIA/AHDI, however, notes that the medical documentation industry is growing at a steady pace and under continued pressure to adopt electronic medical records. In light of these factors, "AHDI and MTIA need the help of legislators to mobilize the health information management community, technology vendors, and other stakeholder groups to create technology-enabled strategies that address the pending workforce shortages," he told members of Congress during the summit on Capitol Hill.

"The medical transcriptionist is the most frequently forgotten part of the healthcare documentation production chain," claims Gary David, associate professor of sociology at Bentley College and principal author of the medical transcriptionist survey. "Quality healthcare delivery often depends on quality medical records, extending from patient treatment to healthcare providers recouping costs. Thus, if there exists a shortage of medical transcriptionists, a gap in the document production process occurs, thereby creating gaps on a number of levels."  











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