Transcription in Health Information – Understanding the Value

Florida_AHDI_201101221971 Dodge Challenger photographed in Montreal...

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I had the great pleasure of visiting with AHDI Florida on Saturday at their Technology Workshop, and of talking with them about the use of technology, including but not limited to speech recognition, as a means of staying viable into the future.  This group is so active, knowledgeable, and passionate about the health information industry (yes, transcription IS part of the health information industry) that they were truly a pleasure to visit!

We had some terrific discussions about the value of dictation and transcription and how we can use technology COMBINED with our human expertise, to produce efficiency – but most of all – to produce a value that customers understand.

These ladies clearly understood what they bring to the healthcare table. But unfortunately, the people in that meeting are not representative of the rest of the industry.

Over the years for various reasons, transcription has come to be seen as a commodity. A utility. Something you don’t notice until there’s a problem or your bill goes up. Do you notice your electricity? Not unless the lights go out, right? Do you really care with utility company gets your check? No – not as long as they keep the lights on. Do you say to yourself, “Gosh, the light from Duquesne Light is so much better than the light from Penn Power.” Not likely.

So why do we think the same old mantra – quality and turn-around time – is a value that anyone cares about?  These are not value-adds. They are givens. Of course the documentation is accurate – this is healthcare! It is SUPPOSED to be accurate. Of course it’s going to be delivered on time. Why wouldn’t it be? These are not value-adds. In the world of marketing, these items would be known as “dissatisfiers”…the types of things no one notices until they don’t get them.

If quality and turn-around time don’t demonstrate a marketable value – then what is left to talk about? Price. And we all know what happens when everyone offers the same product with the only difference being price.

And now that the question is no longer “inhouse versus outsourced transcription”, or “which transcription service”, but is now “direct-data entry into the EMR or transcription” – it becomes even more important that we understand the value that transcription brings. More importantly – we must learn to communicate that value to others.

So what are the value-adds in transcription? What does transcription provide to the healthcare provider that they cannot get elsewhere? We have all heard story after story of how loss of transcription caused a degradation in quality of health information, caused interruption and inconvenience to the physician, is increasing expenses because now providers are investing in more expensive scribes to fill the gap left by transcription.  Why are we so bad at convincing the healthcare provider that transcription is something worth paying for? Is it because we don’t understand it ourselves?

It seems like every other business in the world understands its own value – why don’t we?

I told the story at the meeting of the time I was ALMOST tempted into buying that beautiful, plum-crazy purple Dodge Challenger on display at the dealership down the road (perhaps aided by a margarita or two plus the fact that it matched my dress).  It was more than twice the price of the faithful little Jetta that gets me to work and home again every single day. Did I buy the Challenger? No – thankfully I came to my senses (or maybe the margarita wore off). But – did I understand WHY the plum-crazy purple Challenger was twice the price of my faithful Jetta? Yep. I sure did. I would not have expected to buy that Challenger at a Jetta price. I understood the value of that Challenger. And someday….

So let me ask –  where is the leadership that will bring the industry together to help it discover and communicate its value? Who will bring us back to the basics – business 101 – and provide the venue for discussion and education that transcription providers – inhouse and service-based – need if they are to survive to serve healthcare another day?

As the members of AHDI Florida showed me – the knowledge is there. The talent is there. The passion for high-quality health information that will play a valuable part in the care of the patient is there.

Let’s call on AHDI and CDIA (formerly MTIA) to help to bring us back to the basics. Yes, we do need to demonstrate the MT value proposition to Washington. Yes, we need to be aware of technologies such as health information exchanges. But if we don’t understand our core value, and how to produce it efficiently and effectively, where does all that advocacy get us?

The members of Florida AHDI, and the thousands of other dedicated medical transcription professionals like them, deserve the leadership that is going to help them through the turbulent times ahead.

Here are my slides from Saturday’s presentation (link above the purple Challenger of course).  I hope that they provide some small contribution to keeping dictation and transcription alive as a part of health information.

All my best as always,


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