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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Historic Change

This is the morning after our national election and with the results now confirmed, no matter your political affiliation, we have all clearly witnessed historic change for our country. Whether your candidate won or lost, we all now must join together to contribute to the much-needed work that must be done for the success of our country.

I cannot help but consider how much historic change we have already witnessed within our own profession. For me, I have been in medical transcription for nearly 40 years, I have seen us go from the windowless basements in hospitals with only 1 or 2 old references and using equipment (typewriters) that was often handed down from other departments. Our job titles changed as well from the girls in the typing pool, typists, medical secretaries, transcribers, to medical transcriptionists. Few people knew who we were within the institutions where we worked and fewer knew that we even existed as reports just miraculously appeared on patient charts as if done by the stroke of magic.

Today, through change, things are different as we often work from our home offices using computers with Windows, we have enormous references available to us including the Internet, and our titles are continuing to evolve as some of our roles also evolve from medical transcriptionists to editors, to trainers, to educators, to consultants, to speech recognition editors, to documentation specialists, to perhaps even some yet determined as our profession continues to evolve and change.

With nearly 4 decades of tremendous change in our profession, there are still some things that have not changed all that much – dictators dictate, we analyze and interpret the dictation to transform it from speech to text, whether on paper or electronically, whether the complete report or only portions of the report, whether through a platform for report creation or through a web portal directly inputting within an electronic health record, we have adapted and continue to change as our role in healthcare documentation evolves.

Our association that represents this noble profession has also evolved to reflect these changes. We are no longer singularly defined as medical transcriptionists as some of us now work in areas that reflect the evolving roles within medical transcription but rather our single focus remains the integrity of the healthcare documentation – created through traditional transcription or through the use of other technologies (i.e., speech recognition, electronic templates, etc.).

Our association has not abandoned medical transcriptionists, it is leading us to prepare for the change that is coming (and where it has already arrived) as the technology that impacts us continues to evolve. Our roots in traditional medical transcription are essential to our ability to transition our skills to making this change, and the association is doing all it can (with limited resources) to give us educational opportunities to prepare us with new skills for new roles in healthcare documentation.

I truly understand the frustration that many medical transcriptionists feel about the profession. Just as so many things have changed over the last 40 years for our profession, some things have not changed nearly enough. We have been undervalued far too long for the importance of our role and contribution we make to quality healthcare documentation. We have not controlled the domain of medical transcription and report creation through the dictation process as others continue to set cumbersome rules or make decisions that negatively impact the ability for us to do our work efficiently and effectively. We continue to be squeezed economically to do more for less as our national healthcare costs escalates and patient safety diminishes.

So how do you propose we make change? Some have suggested that they will leave their careers to go to other jobs. Some have stayed on but have chosen instead to be bitter and complain to anyone willing to listen about the injustices they are subjected to in this field of medical transcription. In the words of Dr. Phil, “How is that working for you?” Leaving a profession that you love, staying bitter and angry only to complain to anyone or everyone who tries to make a change – does that really work for you, does that really work for the greater good of our profession? Those are questions only you can answer.

Have we not seen in this recent historic election that people can and indeed do have the ability to evoke change! There has never been a better time to join together to speak out in a collective voice that change is needed. That collective voice is through the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI), the organization that advocates for all of us! Just imagine the change we could impact if our membership was 30,000 or more, instead of 7,000. Our association represents our interests in standards-development organizations, with our legislators, the U.S. Department of Labor, through alliances with our organizations (i.e. AHIMA, MTIA, HCCA, etc.), and in numerous other places – giving us a mechanism and a voice for change in the evolving world of healthcare documentation.

Ask yourself, if AHDI wasn’t there for us, who would be? If AHDI was not representing us within these entities, who would be?

If you think that your single membership does not matter – it does. Just as individuals contributed to change in this historic election through their financial contributions, through their volunteering to work for change and by coming together they were rewarded with success.

I cannot guarantee you that with your membership it will make all of our plans and goals successful, but without you and your contribution to our association, I can guarantee that it will be more difficult to achieve our success.

During this historic election we have witnessed that when people come together they can make change; clearly that message is the same for all of us who have shared in the career of medical transcription, it is time to come together to make change.

Join AHDI, join your local chapter, if you live in an area that has no local component association then join the Online Association. Join me and other committed volunteers by getting involved, if only for an hour a month or more, we need all contributions, as collectively we can make history!

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