The Cost of Medical Transcription Services

When we think about “costs” we usually immediately think of money — how much we are willing to spend to accomplish a certain task. But in almost every scenario, that monetary cost is always linked to time, the two are not mutually exclusive. When it comes to the cost of medical transcription services, we can’t think of just dollar signs. We have to simultaneously consider both of our two most precious finite resources: Money and Time.

Let’s start with the familiar Money-Costs.

Outsourcing medical transcription to a third party company can be pricey. On the very lowest end of the spectrum, a medical transcriptionist earns minimum wage, which, depending on location, is around $10-15. It’s a valuable service that eases a physician’s documentation workload, but often that money is coming out of their own pockets. Those that choose to hire third party medical transcriptionists are essentially agreeing that the freedom of not having to do that work themselves is worth, at the absolute minimum, $20,000 per year.

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Why? Time-Costs. The other ultra finite resource we have.

Without a medical transcriptionist, physicians must document all of a patient’s record and then edit and upload them manually into the EHR. Studies show that these exact tasks are responsible for more than 50 percent of physician burnout across the entire medical field. Half. If an outsourced transcriptionist can be hired full time, it’s fair to say that a physician who assumes those same medical documentation responsibilities in addition to their regular workday is being forced to do too much.

It therefore makes complete sense that physicians are willing to pay $20k a year (or more, in almost all cases) to regain their work-life balance. But even still, outsourcing medical transcription comes at a cost of its own.

Time. Again.

On average, it takes transcription companies 48 hours to document a single patient encounter and produce a complete patient record, which isn’t always a reasonable timeline when dealing with human patients, insurance claims, reimbursement, etc. Often, in the interest of their rightfully cherished Time, physicians pay transcription companies an additional fee to get their documentation expedited. Usually it’s under these circumstances where note quality falls off, and physicians must spend extra time editing documents they paid a premium for.

It is here where the investment into using a transcription company is called into question. Why should a physician pay to outsource documentation when the turnaround times are poor, the note quality is inconsistent, and the prices are too high?

The problem is, though, that historically there haven’t been any great alternatives. So instead  our physicians swirl somewhat hopelessly as they try to navigate the crippling burden of medical documentation, toeing the edge of burnout.

Despite history, however, there are an increasing number of technological breakthroughs within the field of medical documentation solutions — namely due to huge strides in the development of artificial intelligence. But as these tools grow in popularity and get smarter and smarter, it’s important to set the parameters of how we want that technology to look. Now. 

The big picture is this: we must know our Costs and we must ensure that emerging AI technology acutely addresses those costs. Additionally, these solutions must be able to monitor, decipher, and dictate an entire patient encounter with extreme accuracy — to the point that they truly honor the Time they claim to save. They also must integrate seamlessly into the exam room, existing practice management software and EHR’s. And it must be Money-Cost forward, provided at a rate far less than $20k per year.

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