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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 25, 2009 at 6:00 AM

Medical records transcribed overseas

Errors can prove fatal

With our unemployment rate, it would make more sense for the U.S. to recruit some of those 400,000 unemployed nurses from the Philippines to alleviate the U.S. shortage than take medical transcription jobs away from Americans [“Overseas fingers type our medical records,” News, April 21].

We are not “typists,” as this article would imply. We are medical-language specialists with years of experience in providing medicolegal documentation of a patient’s medical records. One typographical error can prove to be fatal in patient care.

The next time you visit your physician, ask him who he uses to document your health records.

— Nancy Groceman, Seattle

Low accuracy rates, high liability

My name is Lisa Pike and I’m the owner of ScribeRight Transcription. Paul Watson’s article was very informative, but I wanted to share some things that aren’t known to the general public about the outsourcing of medical transcriptions services to Third World countries:

Security: The U.S. has gone through great pains to put the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in place, with heavy fines for noncompliance, but then allows our intimate health details to be sent overseas, where they are not protected by American law. Most American patients don’t know this is happening and have no say in the choice to outsource.

Accuracy: The quality from most overseas companies is well below acceptable, and in some cases downright life-threatening. In one example a client gave us, a doctor dictated “sulfa,” a very common antibiotic, and the English-as-a second-language transcriptionist typed “sea foam”!

In the last few years, several health-care groups, fed up with the low quality they were getting from outsourcing, have brought their work back to companies that have native English-speaking transcriptionists. The heavy editing they had to do after receiving back files ate up any savings there might have been.

Cost: The 10-15 cents per line quoted in the article is roughly the same, if not more, than domestic services charge. It begs the question: Why risk the high liability and put up with low accuracy rates when one can get the same price locally? If your average Filipino transcriptionist makes 20 percent of what her American counterpart makes, why aren’t the outsourced prices 20 percent of what is charged here?

While some health-care providers consider it a “cyberspace miracle,” others shudder at the thought of someone a half a world away deciphering their life-and-death medical data for $3 an hour.

— Lisa Pike, president, ScribeRight Transcription Agency, Inc., Renton

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