The Importance Of Transcription In The EHR Age

In preparation for the AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association) Conference next week, my publisher and I have been speaking with several transcription services companies that will be exhibiting at the show. Since Healthcare Technology Online is a new media outlet, these conversations typically begin with us describing the focus and purpose of our website and weekly email newsletters. In more than one instance, a representative from a transcription company questioned our interest in their services. “We’re not a technology company,” they’d say. “I don’t see how our content and offerings would be of interest to your audience.”

This response floored me. While it’s true that most transcription companies offer outsourcing services as opposed to hardware or software technologies, these companies still play a vital role in healthcare IT — particularly as more healthcare facilities migrate to an EHR (electronic health record).

Transcription: The EHR On-Ramp

Some proponents of EHR suggest that template-driven electronic documentation capture is the best approach to realize the benefits of EHRs. However, this approach often forces the process and behavioral changes that have been primary barriers to EHR adoption. Furthermore, relying on a physician to key information into an EHR or select data from a series of drop-down menus while with a patient can lead to human error, inaccuracy, and incomplete information.

Using a “migratory” approach to EHR can help you avoid these potential pitfalls. With this approach, physicians can continue to interact with patients the way they always have and continue to leverage their existing dictation and transcription processes. However, getting voice data into a transcribed format that can be seamlessly integrated with or digested by the healthcare facility’s chosen EHR platform becomes a required capability of the transcription services company. In response to these growing EHR integration needs, most transcription services companies leverage the latest NLP (natural language processing), XML (extensible markup language), and HL7 (health level seven)-compliant technologies. These tools can create templates for data entry that automatically populate an EHR. In other words, data is tagged according to the report’s format and the NLP’s output and uploaded directly into the EHR in the appropriate place. It then becomes simple for the transcriptionist to perform a quality check of the data to ensure it matches physician instructions and the requirements of the EHR. In this way, the transcription provider truly serves as a healthcare facility’s on-ramp to an EHR.

Key Transcription Provider Criteria

Ensuring that the transcription service company you select can deliver data that can easily be fed into your EHR is just one step of the process. Other areas to consider when selecting a transcription services company include:

  • guaranteed compliance with HIPAA (The Health Information Accountability & Portability Act) when it comes to handling the protected health information of your patients
  • storage in a mission-critical data center that provides 99.99% uptime and security
  • a guaranteed transcription accuracy rate of 99%
  • multiple levels of quality assurance
  • transfer of files through FTP (file transfer protocol) or browser-based secure 256 bit AES (advanced encryption standard) encrypted file transfer protocol
  • 24/7 technical support

Again, while not a “technology” in and of itself, medical transcription is a vital part of adopting EHRs and other healthcare information management processes. Transcription companies will provide the industry with the guidance and support necessary to accelerate EHR adoption and help us to embrace the electronic age of clinical documentation.

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