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Transcriptionists Retire Early, New Study Shows

Repetitive, Fast, Constant Typing Catches Up with MTs
 
Findings from a multi-disciplinary research team from Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, show a dwindling medical transcriptionist (MT) supply in the healthcare documentation market (www.bentley.edu/mt-study).  According to the research, the medical transcription profession is faced by a "two-pronged problem of an aging workforce without younger replacements." Repetitive Stress Syndrome from excessive sitting and typing forces many workers to retire early from the profession.
 
"Healthcare enterprises rely on the documentation creation community to provide useable, relevant, and accurate patient care data in a timely manner to enable and direct ongoing clinical decision-making," states Peter Preziosi, CEO of the Medical Transcription Industry Association (www.mtia.com). "However, with a grave shortage of qualified medical transcriptionists and few in the pipeline to replace this aging workforce, 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." 
 
"The medical transcriptionist is the most frequently forgotten part of the healthcare documentation production chain," claims Gary David, PhD, associate professor of sociology at Bentley University and principal author of the medical transcriptionist survey. "Our investigation into the work of medical transcriptionists is meant to fill a major gap in how they are factored into the healthcare delivery chain. 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."
 
Better Technology Means Lower MT Pay?
 
Fortunately for MTs, speech-recognition technology (SRT) is a tool for doctors, but can never substitute for a human transcriptionist. However, the introduction of SRT has changed the pay system, with MTs being paid as editors of records transcribed by SRT, resulting in a decline in per unit pay.  Professor David sees the silver lining in this cloud, stating that "it is expected that an increase in productivity (due to 'reading' versus 'typing') will offset the decrease in per-line pay."
 
Without MTs, doctors will have no proof of their work, and evidence by way of documentation is required for insurance reimbursement. Studies such as this one from Bentley gently remind the industry that doctors do not technically generate income, but records do.

By Chris Navarro
Get Medical Transcription Jobs, Contributing Editor

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