Let me clarify that title: time for US-based medical transcriptionists to hang up their keyboards?
Some who seem to have found the few rays of sunshine still beaming down onto the medical transcription industry seem to have suddenly noticed that it’s dark in the room and the blinds are open – and joined me on the dark side to warn of the depressing downward spiral of medical transcription.
In a Facebook post on his Proud to Be a Medical Transcriptionist page, Jay Vance writes (in part – follow the link for the entire post):
We can debate and discuss the M*Modal layoffs specifically ad nauseum, but the bottom line is that MTs would be wise to begin casting a wider net with regard to their career future. And this is coming from someone who until recently was a diehard proponent of MT training for a career that still had some legs to it. I’m no longer comfortable with that position. My advice is to look at where the healthcare industry is going and where the demand for jobs is going to be in the next few years, and begin working in that direction.
I’m not happy about people who’ve previously insisted that medical transcription was still a viable career are finally beginning to see the writing on the wall. I’m as sad as Jay. I made good money working at home as an MT – but those days are long gone. I finally shut down my business in early 2008, primarily because all my clients either went to large companies or electronic medical records and I was left with a few doctors whose dictation was so awful it took me three times longer to transcribe their dictation, with no better dictators to offset the loss in production.
Since then, the number of MTs I see posting on Facebook and other forums about how they are making less and less money per hour, spending more and more time waiting for jobs to appear in their queue, and in general seeing the writing on the wall has grown larger and larger. Over the years, veterans have been maligned and told they’re just expecting too much, that the “good-old days” might have been better, but for people entering the field, it’s not so bad. I wonder how long those newbies worked making less than minimum wage before they finally realized the problem wasn’t just a comparison between the “good-old days” and the present reality.
I spent a lot of time learning MT. It wasn’t easy. It’s not an easy field to learn or to break into. And I feel that’s worth something. So if I compare making minimum wage as a medical transcriptionist versus making minimum wage as – say, a barista at Starbucks – I’ll choose the barista at Starbucks. Being a barista has few responsibilities, only a little training, and as long as you show up, you get paid. Being an MT, on the other hand, requires much, much more and there’s absolutely no guaranty that showing up will result in any activity that results in being paid. Soooo…. if I’m going to be paid the same amount for both jobs, I’ll take the one that didn’t require years of training and experience because I’m not going to give away my experience and training to someone who doesn’t appreciate it enough to compensate me adequately for it and treat me fairly.
And unfortunately, there is no Santa Claus, Virginia. Anyone who thinks this will all turn around just as soon as anyone whose opinion makes a difference suddenly and miraculously realizes there are errors in the records and it must be due to the fact that good-ole American MTs are no longer on the job is just deluding themselves. Turn off the sun lamp before you get badly burned; there is no comfort in false sunshine. The declining commitment to accuracy in written communications is evident everywhere. Professionals write their own letters (full of errors). Authors publish their own books, usually without any editing, and usually full of errors. Those of us who love punctuation in any form (including semicolons), well-constructed sentences, and know the difference between a possessive and a plural just cringe and cry. Everyone else just accepts it as a necessary evil of faster communication; unless, of course, they’re in the generation that just solves the problem by writing U R instead of trying to figure out if what they need is your or you’re. Doctors and hospitals are more than willing to accept a degradation in accuracy in exchange for records that are faster and cheaper. And I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the cheaper part of the equation.
Time to execute that escape plan, folks. It’s not going to get any better out there.
14 thoughts on “Time for medical transcriptionists to hang up their keyboards?”
The same thing is true in the legal transcription industry. It is interesting that there is no shortage of attorneys out there that really do not understand how to construct a grammatically correct sentence. But they don’t really seem to care. The transcription jobs have gone overseas somewhere. You can sign up with an international transcription agency and then try to outbid someone in Malta or wherever, and then do the dance to try to get paid in a timely manner at a rate that comes out to be somewhere about 0.3 – 0.5 cents per word (which, by the way, is absurdly low!).
Well stated, Julie. I couldn’t agree more.
I am in complete agreement with this 🙂 I chose to leave the industry with my self-respect intact.
Well said, Julie! Hate what has become of this industry!
Well said, Julie! Hate what has become of this industry!
Absolutely spot on. I am very fortunate to have had a job search that culminated in a position that pays me hourly, I can still work at home, and I will very shortly have insurance coverage at a decent cost. However, I am not kidding myself because if this job all of a sudden came to a crashing halt, I’d be back in the wheel, running as hard as I am able, against the rest of the people who have had their jobs outsourced. It is very difficult for us veterans to accept the fact that our value has dropped to that of minimum wage (I did that for a few months until I found my current position). For years I have felt that unionization would have been a smart thing for us to have done in the ’80s; that would have allowed us a modicum of protection, but the reality is, who knows how much? I truly never thought I’d see the day where we’d have a complete breakdown of written English discourse but it is here.
Amen, and amen again. It’s been coming for a long time. Thank you, Julie!
You do agree there continues to be a problem with the accuracy, completeness and records unique to individual patients. Could the skills a medical transcriptionist has be either expanded or directed toward some kind of quality assurance program that focuses on accuracy of content rather than toward the keyboarding/production as the primary action? I guess why I am asking is that there is a reality that the compensation model for MTs has eroded over time, but I still think that MTs are also as much if not more frustrated at the lost of control or input in creating quality reports; and I am again, optimistic that our skills can be repurposed as the EHR evolves.
My challenge, our challenge as a volunteer leaders with our national organization, is I’m not ready to leave the conversation about how to assist/partner in the integrity of the record. We are definitely seeing the next surge of retirees and experienced professionals moving out of the business and not many new professionals coming in. Granted we must see new business models emerge to stay financially viable and in some cases we are seeing a “workforce” shortage, especially with the larger services, based partially (a generalized statement here, as there are still many companies out there that do treat MTs well and still have contracts that promote quality information) on the prevalence of a business model that is counter-intuitive to an MT creating quality documentation.
I do think the tide is turning or will turn regarding who is willing to accept degradation in accuracy in exchange for records cheaper and faster. I advocate that healthcare enterprises should start doing more quality assurance-type fact checking. We need data on the entire error/accuracy/integrity of the record anecdotal conversation. It may take continued litigation to move the needle, however, and unfortunately patient lives compromised, to buck the “just get it on the chart” trend.
I guess what I am asking is your suggestion here is to get out of the business and/or never get in the business; yet, you know the knowledge and skills that MTs have; what career path(s) would you recommend. There has to be a more to our career options than barista?
Unfortunately and sadly, this very true. I’m afraid the profession I have loved for years is dying. Have seen it coming, and I’m afraid it’s just going to get worse, not better. I’m glad I had the foresight to be looking into new options. Hate to leave the profession, but I’m afraid there’s no other choice.
Totally agree, Julie. I’ve been doing this since 1988. Wages are less than half what they used to be. I remember when we edited to make a coherent report instead of this strict verbatim nonsense. Wouldn’t recommend anyone attempt to get into the field at this point.
So where do we go from here…what field do you start looking into when you have been a medical transcriptionist for 25 years! I don’t know where to even begin.
I hope this discussion is still opened, or someone can help me find a viable forum as I was terminated about 28 hours ago from MModal for not making the grade, 99.6% required scores and a line count of 120 per hour. I fought this ever increasing bar for 2 years and am worn out and could not do well enough to get hired by another major player. Ifeel much like the person who asked, What do I now do? The implication of “You’re not good enough” wears on a person after while and carries over to other facets of life. I hope to find some commiseration as well as provide in a reciprocal manner! Knocked dwn but not knocked out..
Does anybody out there have any ideas for a transition to another line of work? Especially when a person is in their 50s or older, this can be difficult!
I was recently laid off as a radiology transcriptionist down here in San Antonio, Texas. I was working for many hospitals down here for the past 30 years. I have not been able to find anything as everything has gone to other places which do not pay much to type for them. Also, the voice recognition system has also put a lot of people out of work down here also. Any advice or comments?