Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Tale of the Rubber Checks

(From an article in Advance, link below)

Joan Edwards (not her real name), like Trudy Schaefer Looney, got into transcription on a whim 14 years ago. "It was sort of by fluke," she said. "I basically trained myself. I started out with a doctor and his wife. It was a brand new practice, and we sort of trained each other."

Edwards worked there for 4 years until the clinic closed due to lack of business. She moved on from there, getting her own accounts and working directly for clinics. Everything in her MT world was fine until she started working for a medical transcription service organization (MTSO) 2 years ago. The warning signs were there. The company said it would get direct deposit for its 120 MTs nationwide. It didn't. The promised health care coverage never showed up. A notice was sent out by the company saying that 10 oncology MTs quit, all in the same day. And MTs were forbidden by the company from contacting each other, even if they worked on the same accounts. Also, a lot of times Edwards and other MTs saw discrepancies in the line counts. They thought they typed more lines than they were paid for, but the only way to prove it would be to purchase the company's own line counting software, which would cost a hefty $300.

Despite the early warning signs that the company might not have been the best, Edwards was always paid on time--at least up until 3 months ago. She walked into the company's bank with a check, and the teller didn't even look at the amount. "She looked at the company name and she just shook her head. I said, 'Why are you shaking your head?' She answered, 'There's insufficient funds,'" Edwards recalled.

Edwards called the owner, who said the money would be in the bank the following morning. He promised the check wouldn't bounce. Edwards ended up $700 overdrawn on her account, and it took 5 days to finally get the money she was owed along with the bank fees for cashing a rubber check.

A couple weeks later, Edwards experienced the same thing. The check would bounce, so she couldn't put it in her account. She called the fraudulent check division in her county, but they provided little help, as she would have to put the check into the account, let it bounce and then prove the owner didn't make things right. "We don't have the option to wait that long, especially single mothers or widows like me," Edwards said. "That's how we feed our children."

Finally, after 3 months of dealing with bad checks, Edwards left the company. She now visits chat sites to let other MTs who ask about the company know that it's bad news. Edwards recently landed a job with another transcription company, but she's wary of the profession now. "I really don't want to get back into the medical transcription profession because of [this company]," she said. "You just don't know what's going to happen."

Edwards admitted she put up with the bounced checks and other problems for too long. She liked the clinic she transcribed for, and was familiar with the doctors. She felt resistant to change, until it became unbearable to stick with the company. The lesson here: don't wait around. If you're experiencing a similar situation, it's not likely that things are going to improve. There are good MT companies out there. Find one and don't be afraid to make the change.

Another lesson out of Edwards' issues is to thoroughly research before starting a job with a company. She checked on chat sites in the MT world before starting work for the company, but didn't find much information. Now Edwards and others who worked for the company peruse message boards to try to help other MTs steer clear. If a transcription company has a bad reputation, chances are that reputation will get out on the Internet, and MTs looking for jobs can use that resource. Another tip is to speak with MTs already working for the company you're thinking of working for. If a company isn't comfortable letting you speak to its MTs, that might be a red flag.

(To read the rest of the Advance story about how MT companies in US are turning out to be questionable employers, click here)