Sunday, May 20, 2012

Transcriptionists File Class Action Suit

On May 11, 2012, the Law Offices of Kevin J. Dolley, LLC and the Riggan Law Firm, wage and hour law firms, filed an individual and collective class action lawsuit for unpaid wages and overtime pay against Transcend Services, Inc., a corporation which provides medical transcription services to hospitals and medical providers throughout the United States. The nationwide collective action lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Read more about the lawsuit against Transcend.

The fact that this lawsuit comes on the heels of Nuance acquiring Transcend is perhaps only coincidental.

This really raises the entire question of whether Medical Transcriptionists are recognized and paid fairly for the knowledge work that they do. It is likely that some of those reading this post might not be entirely familiar what with is expected of a transcriptionist. You may want to take a look at one of my older posts on this topic, The Common Well. The old definition of the MT being an overpaid typist and an underpaid physician comes to mind when going through the current debate. Julie Weight, one of the earliest proponents for fair practices in the Medical Transcription industry, writes forcefully about the background and the relevance of this new development.

Terming the silence of knowledge workers in the transcription industry a variant of the Stockholm Syndrome, she says in her blog post.

I had abusive clients over the years. I put up with their abuse for a number of reasons, but the primary reason was I was making good money and I used that to justify tolerating the abusive behaviors. One day, I decided I’d had enough. I terminated a long-time client who represented a substantial amount of my income. I liken it to having a splinter you’re afraid to remove – it doesn’t seem that bad, it’s not festering too much and it’s not frankly infected so out of fear (or whatever reason), you just leave it alone. When you finally pull the splinter out, you realize how painful and annoying it’s been and wonder why you tolerated the pain for so long just because you were afraid to pull it out. That’s how I felt when I finally removed that splinter. For me, the stress relief far outweighed the loss of income. It takes a lot of courage to stand up, but at some point you have to ask yourself what do I really have to lose? Many of the MTs involved in this lawsuit are struggling to make a living – not just a decent living, but a minimum wage living. For a job that requires as much knowledge and intelligence as medical transcription, that’s just not right. And I’m sure there will be plenty of people who will say (or think) well why not just get another job? First of all – why should they have to? THEY haven’t don’t anything wrong. Second, I suspect Transcend isn’t the only company that employs these tactics or has these problems, and many MTs have gone from company to company, trying to find a fit, only to experience similar treatment.

Medical transcriptionists need to stop being afraid of what will happen to them if they speak up, and start thinking about what is happening to them because they aren’t speaking up.

It will be interesting to see how many MTs join this class action and how many additional actions are filed against other transcription service companies that employ the same abusive tactics. If you think you belong to the class action against Transcend, there’s a link to instructions in the Dolley law office blog. I encourage transcriptionists to stand up for themselves; in the end, it will benefit not only individual MTs, but the industry as a whole.

At a time when knowledge workers in the Medical Transcription industry are coping with the greatest paradigm shift ever, recognizing the value of their true contribution is essential. I strongly urge all readers of this blog to take a look at what Julie has to say about this.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Is the Sun Setting on Medical Transcription?

Medical transcription in India started with a flourish more than a decade ago, but is now showing more and more signs of ending with a whimper.  Technology has caught up and the profile of the industry has changed radically; that it will no longer be an employee intensive industry is a fact all transcriptionists will have to recognize and live with. Companies in India for their own survival are opting for Voice Recognition systems and downsizing their workforce almost with a vengeance. The question is, will these companies themselves survive for more than 2-3 years?

At the beginning of the decade, things were looking great. There was always the risk of voice recognition coming into its own, but the quality of the transcript spewed out by voice recognition programs was beyond pathetic and transcriptionists heaved a sigh of relief, but voice rec bided its time and, well, the Empire Struck Back. Quality of transcripts improved dramatically, well not as great as company bigwigs claim them to be but they are definitely workable. I have some experience with Dragon and MModal, and some of my friends have worked on eScription used by Nuance. The general belief is eScription does a great job delivering consistently high accuracy outputs of above 90%. The other two are decent but there is still some way to go for them. One reason might be Nuance informs the clinics and hospitals it serves that they use a voice recognition platform and they actually take the trouble to spend time with the physician to familiarize them with the system and how best to dictate into it. With the dictator himself knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the system, obviously the output is that much better.