MT Industry Is Dying on the Vine

The letter from Wendy Keller regarding “What Good is Change for MTs?” (Jan. 12) has finally said what many MTs are truly feeling, but were reluctant to express in writing. Over the years many of us have had numerous conversations about the changes occurring in the transcription profession. We all agreed that change was coming, but none of us saw much of an advocate for us in our association. Over the years there were articles and surveys regarding pay and productivity, but I certainly cannot recall the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) taking a true stand regarding either of them.

My “red alert” first came at the AHDI (then AAMT) Annual Convention held in Portland, OR, several years ago. The “Hay Study” had been published and, much to my chagrin, sent out to every employer they could find. The published result of a salary survey, it indicated how low the pay really was for most MTs. AHDI took a “for what it’s worth” stance regarding the publication and refused to advocate for higher wages, stating that it was the decision of the employer and MTs should advocate for themselves. They could have gone a long way in helping the individual MT do that, but they took a hands-off approach to the matter. Meanwhile, they doubled the annual dues for being an AHDI member. That was incredible! On one hand they were acknowledging the low pay of most transcriptionists, while on the other hand they were dipping into our pockets to get more money for AHDI. Why? Because they wanted to ensure that everybody working in Modesto had a paycheck, and a good one at that! Meanwhile, any MT actually earning a reasonable salary had an employer with a copy of the ‘Hay Study’ telling them that their MTs were overpaid, according to “industry standards.” Some of us tried to bring this subject up at the end of one of the sessions but were ignored by the AHDI official in attendance. I did not renew my membership in AHDI after that, until required to do so to get a discount for a convention I wanted to attend.

The next “red alert” came when there were articles in the trade publications advocating outsourcing jobs overseas. I couldn’t believe it when I read that AHDI was promoting such a thing. That would mean that MTs in this country would compete with foreign MTs who received even less pay. Were those MTs, if good at their jobs, even aware of their worth? Probably not. However, some transcription service owner charging a customer 20 cents a line while paying the overseas MT a fraction of that per line certainly was! I’d love to make the difference in cents per line without typing a keystroke! Were those MTs even receiving any benefits? I suspect they were not.

My third “red alert” came when I attended the AHDI Annual Convention in Reno, NV. While there I was amazed to learn how many in leadership were transcription service owners. That was an “ah ha” moment for me. Then and there I decided I had joined AHDI for the last time. What a conflict of interest! I have remained a certified medical transcriptionist but may even let that lapse, as it offers no more recognition for what I do than I would receive without being certified.

Obviously voice recognition and template-based EHRs are already here and being used by many health care entities. However, there is still a need for good MTs. The profession seems to be dying on the vine, and without an advocate for the “medical editors” regarding salary and recognition, what does the future hold for them? Apparently AHDI thinks it need not get involved. Apparently we are paid for our fast fingers and not our brains.

Fortunately I am one of the few MTs working for an employer who offers a salary that is more than fair for what I do. However, by the time I have retired from my profession, they will be well into template-based documentation and require much less actual medical transcription. It is inevitable that change is coming. We will all have to accept that. However, none of us has to embrace an organization that does not represent us the way we want it to. We do not have to spend our hard-earned dollars for dues to provide high salaries for AHDI executives who do not have our best interests at heart.

Thank you, Wendy, for your insightful remarks.