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November 23, 2014

Survey Finds Electronic Health Records Key to Transcriptionists’ New Career Paths

New speech and language processing technologies have dramatically changed the traditional work of medical transcriptionists, the health information professionals who prepare the records of patients’ health stories from clinicians’ dictations.

Eighty-seven percent of medical transcriptionists indicated that in order to transition to documentation roles in electronic health records (EHR), new skills and knowledge gaps need to be identified, according to a survey released today by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI). A separate survey of transcription managers and supervisors showed an overwhelming need to identify transition plans and career paths for traditional medical transcriptionists, as 73 percent indicated no plan was currently in place.

“The skills of a transcriptionist – to listen and be detailed- and research-oriented, with a familiarity of medical terminology and disease process – are still in critical need in HIM departments during this time of healthcare transformation,” said AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, CAE, FACHE, FAHIMA. “The transcriptionists that can demonstrate agility by moving into a new position can carve out a valuable niche for themselves.”

The survey found that the top two job titles transcriptionists are transitioning to are chart integrity auditor and EHR technician/HIM analyst, performing direct documentation into the EHR and auditing for accuracy and completeness. Other promising career paths within HIM for transcriptionists are coding professional and healthcare documentation technology trainer.

More than half of transcriptionists (53 percent) said they were probably or definitely willing to invest time and resources into obtaining an academic degree to transition directly into HIM roles working with the EHR.

“The rise of EHR is just one of many growth areas in health care where the skills of a transcriptionist will be valuable,” said AHDI CEO Linda G. Brady, CAE. “Medical transcriptionists, also known as healthcare documentation specialists, are a valuable partner in facilitating successful transitions in how health records are documented. This workforce is well-positioned to identify important quality issues to preserve the integrity of the health record and serve as subject matter experts who can work with providers to create best documentation practices.”

Other survey findings included:

  • The skills considered most important to move into the EHR were communication, quality improvement, and workflow analysis.
  • 53 percent of transcriptionists were somewhat willing or very willing to transition into a job in an office environment.
  • 32 percent of supervisors indicated a transition plan is extremely or very important to their facility.

AHIMA and AHDI are working together to create model job descriptions for the transition areas identified in the survey as well as other resources to help transcriptionists make the transition.

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