Outsourcing Transcription: What Clients Want

Vol. 14 •Issue 7 • Page 23
MT Trends

Outsourcing Transcription: What Clients Want

The first rule in marketing is that packaging sells a product. The challenge for medical transcription (MT) outsourcing services is to tailor their offerings to meet growing needs in this industry in the form of lower costs, faster turnaround, quality assurance and privacy/security guarantees. From the confusing to the controversial, their packaging efforts have spawned some interesting evolutionary developments.

Apples to Oranges Price Quotes

David Iwinski Jr., CEO and president of Acusis LLC in Pittsburgh, recalled an incident at a trade show. “One particular vendor had these giant banners that read, ‘$.07 a line.’ I asked him, ‘Would you give me a copy of your line count methodology?’” Not surprisingly, the vendor refused. “What good is $.07 a line when you don’t know what a line is?” he questioned, adding that he believes clients are wising up to such intentional convolutions. But are the vendors responding?

“In this competitive market, I think you’re finding everyone trying to differentiate themselves. That’s why you get confusion on the part of hospital administrators,” said Harry Shaw, vice president of marketing, Spheris.

Spheris’ evolution can be traced back to a merger between Total E-med and EDiX. And like many services, the company packages their offerings to meet clients’ needs. “There are two levels of confusion,” said Alan Whorton, vice president of national accounts at the company. “One’s a comparison of price, the other is, more importantly, the comparison of service.”

A Mixed Marriage

Spheris is looking to technology to enhance its offerings, deploying speech recognition to clients. “Spheris offers technology along with the MT outsourcers, allowing providers to adopt a technology at their own pace,” said Shaw. “A hand-held device without a skilled hand to operate it” demonstrates how “technology will only take you so far,” as he put it.

“The coming years will be an interesting barometer of how speech recognition will impact the MT outsourcing community,” said Michael Miller, vice president of Dolbey Systems in Concord, OH.

“Measurements will have to focus on who is actually using it and for what percentage of their client base to discern from those who are merely talking about speech recognition.”

For facilities who’ve ventured on their own with speech recognition in efforts to cut costs, Spheris’ Whorton doesn’t think they’ve realized the return on investment goals expected. “There’s been this investment in technology with the expectation of the ROI, and in many cases, the ROI simply hasn’t been there.”

Trend to Buy American?

Offshore outsourcing, another cost cutting measure, has gained national attention after the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) incident in which a Pakistani subcontractor threatened to post confidential medical data on the Internet if she wasn’t paid. As a result, some folks in the industry have speculated that facilities may demand an all-American workforce.

“I have not seen any evidence whatsoever that clients are demanding or requiring this work to be done in the United States,” said Iwinski. “The reason is twofold and very simple.” For starters, he offered, “They would have to pay more money, and they’re not willing to do that. The second reason is there simply is not a body of MTs available to do that.”

The American Association for Medical Transcription (AAMT) would agree with Iwinski on the issue of workforce shortage. In testimony given before Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-CA) for international trade policy and state legislation, AAMT urged the senator to sponsor the allocation of government funding for workforce and technology in light of the present shortage of MTs.

Shaw doesn’t dispute the workforce shortage, but he still sees skepticism over offshore outsourcing in some of his clients. “Almost every client brings the subject up,” he said. “It comes in a range from mildly concerned to emphatic.” In fact, “some want every assurance their dictated work doesn’t leave U.S. soil.” Alluding to legislation being proposed in multiple states to regulate offshore trade, Shaw said it’s a hot button issue for many facilities.

Addressing these government proposals, Iwinski equates it with mandating the purchase of American cars. “There just isn’t enough production capacity to accommodate that mandate,” just as there aren’t enough MTs in the United States to stop offshore outsourcing, he said.

And in response to the oft-cited privacy issue, Iwinski thinks it’s ironic. “The same night the story broke about UCSF, the local news in Pittsburgh did a story on a doctor’s office,” he recalled. To save shredding costs, the office dumped thousands of records in a dumpster at a strip mall, and a man who worked at a shoe store in the mall found his own records. “I thought it would be headline news in the papers the next day, but I saw nothing about it.”

After the hype blows over, Iwinski speculates, “Customers are going to say, if the quality is good, the security guaranteed and the price is fair, we’re going to take the best deal for our medical institution.”

Linda Gross is an associate editor at ADVANCE.