Outsourcing Medical Transcription

As the need for clinical documentation aid rises, many clinicians are outsourcing their medical transcription to third party transcription companies all over the world. This week we address some of the common questions and issues with outsourcing medical transcription.

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What is Medical Transcription?

Medical transcription has gained lots of popularity over the last few years as an effective, cheaper alternative to medical scribes or other popular documentation solutions. After a patient encounter, clinicians will send an audio file of the recorded visit to a transcriptionist who will transcribe it into a written report.

Usually, these transcriptionists have, at minimum, a basic understanding of medicine and industry language. With this training, transcriptionists are able to provide fairly accurate documents that the doctor can then use to finish their medical notes and integrate into their EHR.

Why do we outsource medical transcription?

The reason we outsource medical transcription is the same reason we outsource a lot of our labor: costs. It is simply cheaper to pay someone overseas to transcribe a patient encounter than it is to hire an employee or a contracted worker here in the United States. But, the nature of outsourcing medical transcription comes with downsides.

Lack of Training, Security

We’ve covered this topic in depth, but it’s important to remember that any time we outsource medical transcription, we are at the mercy of the third party companies' rules and regulations. There is no governing body that manages the training or security practices of these companies, and as such, we can’t always be sure of the measures being taken to protect patient data. Many companies provide a statement of HIPAA security and compliance, but because there is no managing body, rules and policies are inherently different and weaker, with no perfect way for clinicians to ensure quality and security themselves. Clinicians are more or less at the mercy of others when they outsource medical transcription.

Turnaround Time

The biggest dilemma with outsourcing medical transcription is the turnaround time. Clinicians naturally want their written reports returned to them as fast as possible, but it’s just not always possible. The time difference between the United States west coast and New Delhi, India, the country with one of the biggest markets for outsourced medical transcription, is nearly 13 hours. That means that by the time many clinicians finish seeing patients around 3 or 4 p.m., transcriptionists in India are sleeping away. This means that providers won’t get their written reports done until the next day at the very least. In many circumstances, that sort of delay just won’t cut it.

Many companies offer tiered pay structures to combat this natural delay, but that isn’t a realistic option for all clinicians, especially when they’re paying for the service out of pocket. But, choosing not to pay more for a faster turnaround time could mean getting pushed to the back of the line, creating long waiting periods that are 48 hours or more.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, outsourcing medical transcription can work for certain clinicians, but it’s not a perfect solution. The documentation issues that face providers across the industry are layered and deep, and outsourcing medical transcription is a band aid solution to a glaring problem that needs transformational overhaul. Our healthcare providers deserve a solution that can truly change their lives, and the effectiveness, cost, and quality of transcriptionists do not meet those standards.

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