Vol. 15 •Issue 23 • Page 16
Medical Transcription: The Buck Starts Here
I think it’s fair to say that when most allied health care professionals think about reimbursement, they think of coders. These skilled individuals are trained to properly assign codes to achieve maximum reimbursement from the insurance companies. I would argue, however, that medical transcription is actually the foundation of the revenue cycle. Without an accurately documented record of the patient’s visit, it is difficult for coders to do their job. Furthermore, inaccurate records can negatively impact timely reimbursement.
MTs take the spoken word and transform it into a written document. These professionals are trained in anatomy and physiology, disease processes, pharmacology, laboratory terminology and surgical procedures. It is the responsibility of MTs to understand what is being dictated to accurately document a patient’s encounter and recognize errors in dictation. Trained MTs will know that the routine blood work being dictated is a BMP (basic metabolic panel) and not a BNP (brain natriuric peptide). They will know that a patient complaining of indigestion was prescribed Zantac and not Xanax. They will recognize that the physician dictating started the operative report talking about the left leg, but ended by dictating the amputation of the right leg. Accurate documentation sets the stage for accurate coding.
The American Association for Medical Transcription (AAMT) will release a level 1 exam in the summer of 2006. Unlike the current certified medical transcriptionist (CMT) exam, this exam will allow recent graduates of a transcription program and MTs who have become specialized to measure their level of competency in the field. The test will cover the very basic core competencies: anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, proper use of English language and grammar, disease processes and medicolegal issues pertaining to the health care record.
AAMT is also working with the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) to develop an advanced transcription education program that will help trained MTs broaden their skills by incorporating technology that will be necessary for working in the electronic health record (EHR).
AAMT recognizes the vital role MTs play in reimbursement and patient care and is dedicated to providing the industry with a properly trained and skilled workforce. From our joint project with AHIMA to approve medical transcription education programs, to our new level 1 certification exam and our advanced transcription program, AAMT believes that education is the key to maintaining quality documentation as our health care system undergoes transformation to the EHR.
At a time when more and more attention is being put on the cost of health care in our country, I would argue that transcription is not the place to look for budget cuts. While speech recognition technology is improving tenfold, it will never be able to completely duplicate the interpretative skills of a human being; particularly a skilled MT who has made a commitment to continuing education by becoming certified. Speech recognition can offer a dramatic contribution to timely reports, but there should always be a trained MT on the back end of that report to ensure its accuracy. Inaccurate documentation will only slow down the process of reimbursement and could impact the care of the patient along the way.
Quality health care is a team sport that involves players at all levels of the patient’s encounter. When it comes to billing for services, transcription is a vital link in the process that will ultimately result in timely reimbursement—and quality health care for the patient. The buck starts here.
Kim Buchanan teaches medical transcription and medical insurance billing at Everett Community College in Washington state and is the 2005 AAMT president.