As with any sector of working life, technological advances are continuously implemented in order to streamline services and to increase productivity.
In the medical arena, doctors and surgeons have always needed to keep notes with regard to their patients.
Over the years, these have evolved from hand written pieces of paper to copy produced by a typewriter and, now, to digital files held on secure computers and servers.
One area, however, where human interaction is still key is in the area of medical transcription. Typically, this involves listening to taped conversation from a medical professional prior to document typing and formatting.
Medical transcription is a service that the majority of the medical industry consider to be outdated. However, they have to continue to employ it in many countries in order to satisfy legal regulations and insurance provider requirements.
As the cost of qualified medical professionals is so high, many organisations have resorted to cheaper labour for this task so that doctors and physicians can concentrate their time more effectively upon patient care. From an economic point of view this is simply good business sense and often essential in order to control spiralling costs.
Medical transcription is not something that just anyone can do. As transcribed notes are added to a patient’s file, and can be used for administering future treatment by other health-care professionals, they need to be accurate. A simple spelling mistake or formatting error could, potentially, put a patient’s life at risk. Therefore, a medical transcriber should have the following skills, amongst many others –
- Knowledge of medical terminology
- High school or equivalent education
- Excellent grasp of language
- Excellent spelling ability
- Analytical skills
- Good typing skills
- Computer skills
- Ability to follow all types of communication accurately
- Prior experience of transcribing
In order to further control costs, medical institutions are increasingly turning to outsourcing as a means of acquiring medical transcription services at the lowest possible cost. Utilising Independent Contractors, hospitals are able to make savings on employee contributions as well as benefits. This, however, has led to some concerns –
- The outsourcing of work from countries such as Britain and The States to the Philippines, Pakistan, India and other countries where labour is cheap in relative terms means that domestic transcribers are priced out of the marketplace
- Privacy concerns are evident as the transcriber’s country may not have laws in place to protect the confidentiality of documents in the way that they would be governed in the originating country.
- Poor quality may be an issue where work is outsourced to other countries where English may not be the native language and misunderstandings can easily occur through unfamiliarity with slang terms and colloquialisms.
Medical transcription scams
If you search the internet for ‘medical transcription work’ or similar phrases then you are likely to be confronted with a huge number of results.
Whilst I cannot categorically state that they are all scams, simply reading a few should set off some alarm bells.
Many of them sound like typical get rich quick scams.
They offer simple work, paying $50-150 per hour, a good rate in any country and especially so in Asia to where most such work is outsourced.
The entry requirements from these sites are either non-existent, or minimal, which is ridiculous as you now know that medical transcribers need to be highly skilled.
Furthermore, several of these sites are not actually offering instant work or opportunity.
Instead, they require payment in order to apply for such work.
My guess would be that you may pay and hear no more or simply receive a list of other web sites to which you would have to pay a fee for yet more worthless information.
Such scams often take advantage of the most needy – those on low income, or stay at home single mothers.
The offer of riches is often too tempting to resist but please try to remember the old axiom – if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is.
Whilst outsourcing of work has been occurring for many years, arguably since the dawn of time in some industries, it is, in some ways, another type of scam. To those people in Asia who do actually find medical transcription work it may represent fair to good pay. However, I am fairly certain that they are receiving only a tiny fraction of the amount their British or American counterparts would have received. Whilst this makes sound economic sense for hospitals I can’t help feeling like we are taking advantage of ‘poorer’ countries by utilising cheap labour. I would also imagine that the benefits package offered to such workers may be far inferior to what a worker in the Western world could expect to receive, or may be non-existent altogether.
For those who have, or do, work in medical transcription servicing within Britain, American and other such countries it poses a real threat to their livelihoods as foreign wage costs are so cheap in relative terms that they just cannot hope to compete. This leads to people leaving the industry or having to accept much lower pay and less favourable working conditions.
With the current economic climate in Western hospitals, along with the growing burden upon the medical care industry, outsourcing medical transcription is essential.
This is because it saves money and allows doctors and other medical personnel to concentrate on what they are paid to do – take care of patients.
However, there are a number of unscrupulous people and organisations that have seized upon this in order to make a quick buck at others’ expense so please be aware and do your due diligence when considering this type of work.
Remember, if you are looking for work then a prospective employer should be offering you money, not the other way round.
There are some concerns with outsourcing medical transcription to Asian countries, in terms of privacy and quality.
I’m sure there are professional services that do not suffer from any of these issues, however, there are probably many more who see it as a money making opportunity and focus less on quality.
Lastly, I would say that outsourcing medical transcription carries the weight of moral and social responsibility as it’s effects impact on both the domestic workers who are displaced as well as the new, foreign workers.
Fortunately, in the Western world, many see money as being far more important so they won’t consider those issues and will sleep well all the same.