22 Sep 06 Medical transcription industry ? Threatened by ‘voice recognition’ technology?

How will technology impact the outsourcing and offshoring of medical transcription? Are technological advancements a threat to the industry or an additional means to handle the transcription needs?

“Majority of the vendors today have adopted voice recognition software for almost 40% of their work.”

US based MedQuist (Other OTC: MEDQ.PK), the leading medical transcription company has adopted a back-end speech recognition system. Out of the 10,000 employees in the company, over 1,200 transcriptionists currently use the technology. Closer home, India based Focus Infosys facilitates almost 50% of the work using voice recognition software.

How will technology impact the outsourcing and offshoring of medical transcription? Are technological advancements a threat to the industry or an additional means to handle the transcription needs?

Overall productivity and efficiency will definitely improve with voice recognition. Pradeep, Director, Mediscribe believes that voice recognition technology will be an added advantage in the future. With the help of voice recognition software, a medical transcriptionist’s output could be doubled.

Rajiv Shetye, VP Operations, Spryance believes however, that for these kind of gains the sophistication of voice recognition software needs significant improvement. Though voice recognition software does increase productivity, transcriptionists need to edit and correct what the engine has produced. The quality of software-produced transcription is around 80% currently, but quality requirements of 98.5% mean that human intervention is a must.

Is adequate manpower available in the US?
According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were a total of 105,000 medical transcriptionists and 417,000 physicians and surgeons working in the US as of 2004.

                        Medical Transcription Employment Break-up
Segment % Breakup
General medical and surgical hospitals 40.2
Offices of physicians 33.2
Business support services 12.5
Offices of other health practitioners 2.3
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 2.0
Others 9.8
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2003

However, industry experts believe this is a gross underestimate as the figures include only medical transcriptionists employed directly in the healthcare sector. There are no reliable statistics of employment with MTSOs or home based transcriptionists. Each doctor requires on an average two medical transcriptionists to handle all the records. This means that there is a theoretical demand for approximately 834,000 medical transcriptionists. Even assuming the number of medical transcriptionists is 3 or 4 times the number put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a huge shortfall.

Given the dearth of trained manpower in this segment, technological advancements will definitely be welcomed. Although the increasing sophistication in voice recognition software will impact the manpower requirement of the industry, it is unlikely to drastically reduce workforce. The positive side to this aspect is that the quality and turn around time of transcription will improve significantly. Medical transcriptionists will be required to identify and edit the inevitable errors created by speech recognition systems to create a final document. However, this might lead to the exit of smaller players, who may be unable to invest in technology.

The data and figures in this article have been extracted from the report “The US Medical Transcription Industry: Perspective on Outsourcing and Offshoring” by ValueNotes.

ValueNotes Research
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