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July 22, 2009

Transcription Group Opposes Offshoring
By Juliann Schaeffer
For The Record
Vol. 21 No. 14 P. 8

The American Transcription Association (ATA), a new membership organization seeking to actively support U.S.-based transcriptionists and companies, aims “to foster a strong domestic transcription industry to keep jobs in the United States,” says Executive Director Donna Littrell. “We are opposed to the offshoring of transcription.”

Littrell says the organization specifically wants to focus on the following:

• providing U.S.-based transcriptionists with a strong and vibrant trade association;

• creating an association that represents the interests of U.S. transcriptionists and U.S. transcription companies; and

• supporting transcriptionists in various ways, including creating a Code of Best Practices, providing vendor discounts, and setting up preferred ATA member insurance rate plans, as well as other benefits not yet defined.

“Now that our advisory board is in place, we will be looking to our membership for guidance on what goals are important to them, and then we will be discussing how we will go about implementing them,” she says.

According to Littrell, voting members (both transcriptionists and transcription companies) must agree to keep all transcription work within the United States. There are currently no educational requirements for membership.

Noting the organization’s underlying belief that every successful medical transcriptionist needs a thorough educational background, Littrell says the ATA does not believe in mandatory credentialing or certification. “Nor do we believe that it should it be created and/or overseen by any one trade organization. We are an advocate of the transcriptionist and the small to midsize transcription company,” she says.

Membership dues for transcriptionists or allied professionals are $99; transcription companies and associate members pay $149; and vendor members pay $249 to join.

The many changes in the transcription industry in the last decade (some good, some not so good, according to Littrell) proved to be Littrell’s impetus to start such an organization. She sees the ATA as an outlet of support for those medical transcriptionists in need of an industry connection. “The Internet offers a great opportunity for transcriptionists to connect with each other. Many work by themselves, but that doesn’t mean they have to work ‘alone,’” she says. “By forming a trade association that supports transcription in the U.S., we can offer support to our members for day-to-day needs such as networking, long-term needs such as how to get started in transcription or grow their business, and providing our members with the ability to be part of something bigger.

“It’s a good feeling to know you are not alone,” she adds. “And it’s a good feeling knowing you are part of an association who cares about you, shares the same goals and philosophies, and is focused on maintaining a vibrant domestic transcription industry.”

As for a defining characteristic of the new organization, its focus will be on bolstering U.S.-based transcription. “Before they join, voting members agree to keep all their transcription work within the U.S. That means no subcontracting overseas, no subcontracting to companies who subcontract overseas, etc. As far as I know, we are the only association to have this stipulation,” says Littrell.

“Our purpose is to strengthen the domestic transcription industry—we do not support offshoring of work [because] we believe there are plenty of well-trained and qualified U.S. medical transcriptionists to support the U.S. medical field, and there are many interested students who want to enter this profession,” she explains.

Some in the industry believe the ATA’s focus on keeping medical transcriptionist jobs in the United States is shortsighted.

“There can be no doubt that the transcription industry, as in the case in hundreds of others in an information-based economy, has been impacted by globalization, at times detrimentally to one group of workers over another. That being said, globalization is an irreversible component of our modern world, made possible largely through advances in technology,” says Scott Faulkner, principal and CEO of Interfix, a technology firm specializing in integration and knowledge-based products for the HIM industry. “Organizations that seek to nationally or provincially divide groups of workers are swimming against a very strong tide at best and, at worst, are implying that one group of workers is inherently more skilled, more responsible, and therefore ultimately superior to another group of workers. I do not concur with that assumption.”

For Members
To transcriptionists thinking about joining the ATA, Littrell says, “First, our organization differs from other associations they may have encountered because our members are all U.S. transcriptionists or U.S. transcription companies. We know what’s important to our members because we are all transcriptionists ourselves. We will advocate for our members, and this organization will be member driven. We hope those who share the same philosophies, such as keeping jobs in the U.S., mentoring newcomers in the industry to help them get started the right way, etc, will find value in our organization. We are strong on networking and invite our members to get involved and be a part of their trade organization.”

She says members will receive discounts from the organization’s growing list of vendors and advertisers on items such as reference books and word expander software and will also get discounted rates on items from the organization’s online store, including headsets and foot pedals. Members will be able to participate in the ATA Member Forum to discuss a number of topics, from business to product reviews and general advice to social networking.

“Members also receive permission to use the official ATA member emblem, which they can display on their Web sites and other marketing materials to show they are a member of the ATA, uphold certain standards, and keep their work in the United States,” says Littrell.

The ATA recently started a Facebook page and has experimented with Twitter in hopes of expanding its involvement with social networking in the near future. However, the majority of communication will take place through the organization’s own forum bulletin board.

To aid in members’ employment efforts, Littrell says the organization hopes to compile a database of U.S. transcriptionists and transcription companies who do not offshore and then make it available to prospective employers or facilities looking to work with U.S. entities. “This is still in the planning phase, but there is a real need for this, and we are excited about the prospect of giving work back to the U.S. transcription industry,” she says.

While Littrell understands the tendency to want to compare the ATA to other industry groups, such as the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity, she makes clear that “we are not trying to position ourselves in relation to any other association. Any comparisons are purely academic.”

— Juliann Schaeffer is an editorial assistant at For The Record.