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Questions to Ask Potential Medical Transcription Companies before You Hire

When it comes to medical transcription, the first thing to consider is whether outsourcing is right for your practice. Every practice is different, so consider your workload, current staffing levels (i.e. can you spare personnel for transcription duty), whether your specialty necessitates the need for outside transcription, and the practical needs of your office. These factors influence the decision to outsource your transcription or stay in-house.

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Review your transcription requirements thoroughly when deciding which option is best for your particular needs, looking closely at your office's workflow. Once you decide that outsourcing is the best choice for your business, you still need to determine the best fit. Obtain at least three quotes, review proposals thoroughly, and ask plenty of questions. Use the following questions to get started, adding any that address your unique needs. Finally, when talking to vendors, take detailed notes. This is a big help when comparing companies and quotes later.

Are Your Employees Experienced and Certified?

Medical transcription is a specialty, so it is important to know that the company that you hire has proof of its experience specific to that specialty. What you want here is information regarding the company's hiring practices. Do they require employees have certification, or a certain amount of experience in medical transcription? Does the company provide training for employees who lack experience? How do they prove the employee's proficiency before hiring?

Can You Provide References?

Ask the company for references, focusing on their medical clients. Then, take the time to contact those clients to determine their satisfaction, whether they'd hire the company again, and if they have any specific complaints. Go beyond the references provided to look up the company's online reviews, and check with the Better Business Bureau to see if it has any complaints filed against it. Finally, talk to other medical providers, especially those within your specialty, to learn who handles their transcription needs.

How Much Oversight Do You Have?

A reputable medical transcription provider offers a multi-layered quality assurance oversight. This means that, in providing quality service, multiple individuals review all transcribed documents, not just the medical transcriptionist. This level of review ensures that any errors or discrepancies are addressed prior to submission to the client. Not all transcription service providers offer this additional quality assurance. A single layer of oversight is not as accurate as multiple layers, compromising the quality and accuracy of the transcribed document.

Is Your Software Compatible with Mine?

Compatibility is an important issue to consider when choosing a medical transcription service. Software used for your electronic health records (EHR) and your practice management system must be compatible with the service provider's software. In the ever-increasing digital healthcare world, multiple platform sharing between your practice and your transcription service provider is essential. All necessary transcription software must be able to communicate with the software your medical practice utilizes in a secure manner to protect the privacy of your patients' records.

What Is Your Average Turnaround Time?

When engaging a medical transcription service, you need to determine the time they require to complete a transcription. Some transcription service providers offer a 24-hour turnaround time, while others offer document completion more quickly or do batch rush jobs. However, providers typically charge an additional fee for these services. Basic documentation services that require more than 24 hours to process may indicate the need to look at another transcription provider.

What Are the Costs?

Medical transcription service fees depend on a number of different factors (location, specialty, etc.). However, the most common pricing methods are by the line, number of minutes of dictation, or by the page. Some companies charge by the keystroke, but this is rare (and you should avoid it if possible).

The most common pricing method is by the line, with standard rates ranging between $0.07 and $0.25 per line. According to the Association for Healthcare Documentation, a line consists of 65 characters. The transcription company typically determines line count by dividing the document's total number of characters by 65.

Where Are You Located?

With the advent of digital recording, outsourcing transcription needs has gone international (and has seriously decreased turnaround time, since you no longer have to deliver tapes). Some practices prefer to keep all services stateside, while others are open to the lower prices they typically get from foreign offices. This is mostly a personal preference, as there is no real difference in quality, at least not based on the company's location.

Since medical records are such a popular commodity for data thieves, some providers are also concerned about the security of medical information when using a foreign transcription service. If this describes you, then look for a U.S.-based provider.

Negotiate for the Best Deal

When negotiating a contract with a medical transcription service, it is best to start with a short-term contract or a service that offers month-to-month subscriptions. This lets you change transcription providers if the one you initially engage does not provide the service you expected. Most services prefer you sign a long-term contract and offer incentives to do so. Once you do, you lose all negotiating power. If you can find a month-to-month option, it's worth it to pay a little extra for a few months to verify the provider's quality and reliability. Once you find a good fit, you can sign a contract.

Before signing, review the contract carefully to understand exactly what it includes, whether there are fees for terminating, and what type of evergreen clause it includes (the contract automatically renews if you fail to cancel by a certain date). Also, make sure you ask what happens if your transcription needs change. Finally, determine your options if the contractor fails to live up to its promises. Any contract you sign should include accountability language.

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