AHIMA Wrap-Up: Domestic vs. International Transcription Still an Issue

Posted on October 19, 2011 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

All of the product literature I collected at the recent AHIMA show in Salt Lake City finally arrived in the mail the other day. As I sat sifting through all the pamphlets, brochures, case studies and white papers trying to remember why I had picked them up in the first place, one tag line in particular caught my eye: “Has your transcription seen more continents than you?”

Yes, there were plenty of technologies and services on hand relating to electronic medical records (EMRs) and electronic health records (EHR), depending on which term is your flavor of the week. But what really got my attention was the number of booths I went to that boasted transcription and coding services based right here in the good ole’ US of A, and their competitors that still internationally outsource these types of services.

Most booth reps I spoke with proudly told me that their services were located in the US. On the flip side, one company boasted that all of its services have been totally off-shored in order to meet customer demand for more competitive pricing. So what’s a provider to do?

I am, admittedly, new to the world of coding, and as this was my first AHIMA show, I was unaware of the schism that has developed in the world of domestic and international coding services. But, as a consumer that has been assisted – both competently and disastrously – by call center reps that I’m 99-percent sure were not located in the United States (despite their insistence on being located somewhere “in the Midwest”), I am aware of the consumer backlash that can result from a business’s decision to outsource its customer services.

I can only imagine, however, the pressures providers must feel when they are making decisions along these lines. Do they adhere to what their bottom line indicates is the best choice, which I assume means going international? Or do they stick with US-based companies to ensure that native English-speakers are picking up all the right nuances in documentation?

The brochure featuring the eye-catching tag line above continued its strong messaging with: “You’ve probably heard horror stories about what can happen when transcription services send work overseas. With language barriers, training deficiencies and rapidly changing regulations, mistakes – serious mistakes – are inevitable.”

Really? Inevitable is a pretty strong word. Is it a legitimate one to use in this circumstance?

A white paper from webmedx (now a part of Nuance), “Finance Leaders Rethink Transcription: Six Critical Criteria in a Changing Landscape,” provides a bit more insight into the issue: “Perhaps it was the black market sale of patient information in India …. Perhaps it was the worldwide economic meltdown and loss of U.S. jobs in 2009. Or maybe it is the pressure of tighter HIPAA regulations under ARRA’s HITECH Act. Whatever the cause, the effect is clear. Healthcare providers who sent medical transcription offshore in the past are bringing it back home.”

Are there any providers in the audience who’d care to speak to either side – why they chose to go domestic, or feel that the quality of transcription is just as good abroad? Has “cheap” become overrated?

Chime in with your comments below in answer to my question above.