Thursday, July 17, 2014

FIRST-HAND ACCOUNT OF AN MT PROFESSIONAL


Hello, I’m Sridhar, Project Manager (Elearning) with Azimuth’s Chennai branch. I began my career in the medical transcription field. I am penning down a summary of my experiences of over 12 years in this industry in hopes of enlightening and encouraging more people (fresh graduates, retirees, housewives, etc.) to consider medical transcription as a career choice.

What made me choose MT? In November of 1999, while I was preparing for my CA Intermediate exams – quite frankly, one of the biggest mistakes of my life – a friend of mine and I were discussing part-time careers. As I was thinking of becoming a part-time accountant at an office, he suggested trying my hand at medical transcription. Frankly, I’d never heard the term before and asked him what it meant. Now this friend had read an article about MT and was able to give me an introduction to what it was all about and what it entailed. When I heard it had to do with American accents, I was intrigued – having only recently begun watching a lot of Hollywood movies – and when I saw an ad in the paper soon after regarding an opening in the industry for freshers, I immediately applied for the job. I was hired at Rs. 2,500 p.m. – a decent amount for pocket money at that time.
 
The first few days in the office reminded me of my school days, even as I learned shortcut keys, the names of different organs of the human body and diseases, names of drugs, and typing while looking at the screen. The daily training classes during the first week of training proved quite useful and the regular practice with dead files provided me with the confidence required to start doing live files.

After another month, I was allotted GE (Gastroenterology) files, which were among the toughest of the lot. Frankly, the first day I tried these I was almost in tears when I couldn’t understand more than 40% of what the dictator was saying and had more blanks in my transcript than holes in a block of cheese. My team lead was a dragon and would have torn me to shreds but for the project manager – a good friend even now – who actually sat down with me and patiently helped me fill in all the blanks. He explained to me the importance of going through the samples – how standard words, phrases and even sentences which the dictators might mumble or whisper or rush their way through were made understandable with the help of samples and old files. He also taught me how to use Examine32 to aid in my search.

I also began befriending the QAs who edited my files and sat with them when they were editing my files. One lady in particular, who I found was as big a fan of JRR Tolkien as I was – and is also still a very good friend – inspired me with the fillip required to go that extra mile when proof-reading my own work. Where earlier I used to give just one shot at a transcript and post it for editing, I began spending up 2-3 extra minutes proof-reading them. My quality improved dramatically and I was soon made editor when auditing of my files revealed an overall accuracy of 98.5%.

It was during this time that I began coming across “bloopers”– errors, both funny and fatal – either on the part of the dictator or because of mistakes made by the transcribing MT. It was quite common to find the sex of the patient changed midway through the file – without permission I might add, and without any obvious surgery being performed. Errors in spelling also created unique and completely unrelated sentences (Eg: She was the diver of a car going at approximately 25 mph; He had a bowel of cereal, etc). These bloopers made an otherwise routine job interesting and usually kept me in good spirits for hours afterwards.

I was soon made team lead and given charge of my own team of five trainees. By this time, my salary had gone up to Rs. 15,000 p.m. and my vague interest in a becoming a professional chartered accountant had all but disappeared. The firm itself had grown from a mere 20 members to over 160 with four times the workload and two branches in the area. After almost three years in the company, I began hearing of the remunerative opportunities in home-based medical transcription and decided to work from home after signing a contract with another company. For over 5 years I earned a pretty good pay (between 30 and 35k each month depending on my flexibility) basically working part-time – usually from 6 am to around 12:30 pm – processing around 1000 lines six days a week. However, as time went by, I realised that being almost devoid of human company was driving me nuts and I decided to seek employment in an office environment again.

My first shift of careers happened at that point – 9 years into my medical transcription career – when I began to do what is called “media monitoring.” But I soon found myself itching for more productive work and within a year got myself back into the transcription business, this time as team lead and editor in a new legal transcription firm. I also did occasional transcription work myself apart from the editing and providing training to the team of ten. Unfortunately for me, this didn’t last long since the firm was shut down due to unforeseen circumstances.

I then joined Azimuth as editor and team leader and then, within a few months, took charge of a new project in addition to the project that I was already handling. By the end of the year I was promoted as Deputy Manager and I started communicating directly with the clients, discussing quality issues and concerns and responding to their queries and feedback comments while also continuing to edit and proof-read files. Of course, that latter portion of my work had to be reduced because of my managerial duties. In my spare time I also began providing training sessions for my colleagues – medical terminology, grammar and transcription tips and suggestions.

I have since moved on to become Project Manager with Azimuth’s elearning division where I contribute as Subject Matter Expert and Production Trainer. I’m glad to say that working alongside friends and colleagues is a huge advantage since we know each other’s working styles and there is no stepping on toes. Also, given the diversified portfolio that Azimuth now has – medical transcription; elearning development; online and on-campus training in MT; Medical Coding and Billing; Spoken English; Soft Skills; Multimedia and Life Skills; and its very own Online Store to sell its various educational and software products – I am convinced that this is the company that could satiate my hunger for professional and personal growth.


I welcome you to join me in experiencing the magic of Azimuth and basking in the warmth and love of our Azimuth family.

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

CAREER OPPORTUNITIES IN THE INDIAN MT INDUSTRY

The Medical Transcription Industry in India has provided highly rewarding and satisfying jobs since the first decade of the new millennium for graduates with good English skills. Thanks to its largely English-speaking workforce, and its geographic location in a strategic time zone, India has attracted large scale MT business and has grown to be the leading destination for outsourced work from countries like the United States and England. Recent political and social developments in the US further point to a boom in this industry, promising more employment opportunities in India in the days to come.

Career Opportunities
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment projection, Medical Transcription job opportunities in the US are projected to grow at a rate of 8% till 2022. The inclusion of over 40 million more people under health insurance coverage by 2019 brought about by the ‘Obama Care’ legislation, America’s aging population contributing to an increased number of healthcare visits, the continued emphasis on accessible electronic documentation, and the retirement of a high number of Medical Transcription professionals is anticipated to strongly stimulate the need for more medical transcription services and manpower.

Salary
According to research conducted by www.payscale.com, the average salary for a medical transcriptionist fresher in India is Rs 176,344 per year. With good experience, the right attitude and proficient quality, an MT professional can earn as much as Rs. 360,000 p.a. In this career where merit-based promotions are the norm, smart graduates with good English skills can hope to make it big with postings in management as well.

Training 
Getting the right training at the hands of industry experts plays a very crucial role for attaining success of anyone aspiring to be a professional medical transcriptionist.

For successful training & placement in the MT industry, An industry-oriented training program that provides for comprehensive coverage in English Grammar, MT theory, Medico-Legal aspects, and Language of Medicine as well as adequate exposure to real medical transcription files from all human body systems, adequate guidance and timely counseling are necessary.

Work From Home 
With many companies offering the option of working from home, Medical Transcription has also become an excellent option for retirees, college students and stay-at-home moms wishing to earn some extra money by working part-time or full time. Work-life balance has now become a reality for many Medical Transcription professionals. Therefore Medical Transcription has become, and continues to be a boon for many.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

AUTOMATIC SPEECH RECOGNITION IS MAKING MEDICAL TRANSCRIPTION JOBS EASIER



The introduction of Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) technology is altering the nature of work of Medical Transcriptionists. Prior to the introduction of ASR technology, medical transcriptionists had to keenly listen to a doctor's dictation of a medical report and completely transcribe the record. The need for a high level of accuracy and timely delivery of files made the work very challenging and at times even stressful. Medical transcriptionists used to spend nearly six hours on an average to transcribe one hour of dictation.
After the introduction of ASR, it was found that medical transcriptionists now spent less than three hours to edit and correct errors that were found on ASR software processed drafts.
This reduction in processing time is possible because, along with the actual voice files of doctors, medical transcriptionists now receive pre-transcribed draft documents that have a quality rating of approximately 90%.  The medical transcriptionists’ main objective is to rectify errors found on the drafts by editing them so as to improve the quality of the ASR documents.
The common errors that medical transcriptionists may encounter in the ASR draft are:
  • Nonsensical phrases
  • Sound-a-like phrases
  • Wrong laboratory values
  • Incorrect drug names
  • Missing English or medical words
  • Document formatting
Hence the job of a medical transcriptionist has become more like that of an editor in that it now involves mostly correcting and editing medical documents. This is making MT work more sophisticated and easy.
Furthermore, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 encourages all medical practitioners to transform from the conventional medical transcription practice to a more sophisticated ‘point-and-click’ template oriented system that is called electronic medical records (EMR).  This new system enables the speeding up of the documentation process and thereby helps doctors provide better care to their patients.
The introduction of ASR and EMR technology in medical transcription is consequently changing the nature of work of medical transcriptionists for good.
According to Mr. Anand, Vice President of Azimuth, the Indian medical documentation industry will take these technological changes in its stride and continue to grow.  Popular reports suggest that there are around 50,000 trained medical transcriptionists in India. In comparison, Mr. Anand believes that there are just 10,000 MT professionals who are active in the profession. He goes on to predict that there would be a huge demand for good quality Medical Transcriptionists in the days to come resulting in more career opportunities for graduates with good English skills.

He adds  that the current generation of Medical Transcriptionists who adapt to technological changes in their work will thrive in the game.

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