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Buying Guide for Medical Transcription Services
It's a common joke: People with great handwriting never become doctors. Add to that the challenge of having to transcribe these notes into electronic documents, and the value of medical transcription services truly comes to light.
There is the option to hire an individual transcriptionist to handle everything in-house, but consider the full cost of an employee to the facility's overhead. Not only this, but it's hard to know how many you truly need when the volume of patients fluctuates wildly.
Likewise, voice recognition software has its own hidden costs. Time spent correcting its errors, even though the industry's accuracy has improved lately, delays other important daily tasks.
Because of this, many practices agree using a medical transcription service provides a happy medium, offering superior accuracy at a more affordable cost. Such a service allows practitioners to dictate notes with a recorder or over the phone. Qualified medical transcriptionists, meaning they've specifically been trained in privacy procedures and medical terminology, will type out whatever was recorded.
This guide seeks to explain the benefits of such a service, provide a typical range of costs, and lay the groundwork to help you pick the right medical transcription services for your needs.
Regardless of your specialty, the most important factors to consider for your search are how quickly the company completes the service, how accurate the notes are, and how well they maintain security for extremely sensitive information. Quality providers will provide easy-to-understand information about how well they can perform all three tasks.
The standard turnaround time from a quality medical transcription service ranges from 24 to 48 hours. Others will include a premium STAT service, which allows physicians to get a transcription back in one, two or four hours.
There's nothing worse than an inaccurate transcription -- it directly impacts the well-being of a patient. Quality services only employ certified medical transcriptionists, all of whom have earned experience, as well as quality assurance employees to ensure transcripts are accurate before submitting them. It's also worth asking if they have liability insurance in the event of inaccuracies.
Just like the practice, medical transcription services must abide by HIPAA regarding patient confidentiality. The industry standard for web-based communication is using 128-bit SSL security. You'll note if the website uses it if it has "https" in the address bar. Physical security and audit trails are also important. In both cases, only authorized people may access the files, and a trail of who accessed which documents are tracked.
Choosing a Service
After coming up with a list of prospective providers based on the above factors, you can trim the hedge further by looking deeper. The easiest way to do this: Go for a trial.
Most providers let you try their services at no initial cost. Since it doesn't cost much in time to make an account, do a quick recording for each service for each provider you're interested in working with. Trial accounts may have limitations for the length of each recording.
Keep note of:
- The turnaround time
- How accurate the transcript is
- How friendly customer service was
Ask a potential provider whether you'll have a dedicated team of transcriptionists on your account. It's advantageous to work in this situation as your team will come to learn about your practice, tendencies and general speech. It'll also give you an idea of how long you can expect to wait for the completed document. If turnover is high, you'll constantly have to explain things to new employees.
Similar to doctors, an MT can be a specialist in a particular field. Some may understand arthroscopic surgical terms better than others, while another works best with radiology or neurology. Some providers may offer specialty services.
In general, a medical transcription service will charge between 7 to 25 cents per line of text. The industry standard defines a line as 65 characters, which includes spaces. However, not all services use this; some might have shorter or longer lines, others may consider a line break to be a new line, and other nuances like this.
Though the cost ranges significantly, the average is 12 to 14 cents. To understand how this translates to your bottom line, open a random patient's notes and check the number of characters in the document. Divide this number by 65, and multiply that by 13 to get a decent ballpark cost for transcribing that document.
Sometimes, a provider charges per report instead of per line. This is usually for doctors who need many short reports transcribed.
In general, you do not need to commit to a contract or a minimum number of reports. However, you'll get the best rates as long as you seek out a company that is capable of catering to your specific needs. Make sure to ask whether there are any additional fees not advertised, such as the cost to set up an account, the cost of tech support and any monthly fees.
If must use a digital recorder rather than leave messages on the phone, you can find them for $75 and up. MP3 is the standard audio format used for file size and audio quality, but nearly any format will do. The service you select may have advice on a recommended device and format they regularly use.
Don't start too quickly. You won't know your team right away, nor will they know you, so it helps everyone to start slowly. By allowing them to transcribe a small number of short documents, they'll have an easier time adjusting to your needs and resolving any communication issues that may come up before the complicated documents arrive.
For the sake of accuracy, spell out any new procedure or drug names that come up. The team may not yet be familiar with a new term that comes up during your service.