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Transcription — Should Technology Replace Customer Service?

By Karen Davis

Technology advancements in health care documentation over the past 10 years have been tremendous. EHR solutions have become one of the more prevalent technologies; speech recognition is maturing and becoming more effective as it continues to gain acceptance in medical specialties; natural language processing/understanding has made speech recognition more practical for the average user; and mobile applications have taken patient documentation “on the go” without risking security.

One of the primary goals of using technology to document and transcribe was to improve efficiency and lower costs. Another byproduct—at least according to some health care technology providers—was to eliminate transcription’s human element.

The Real Cost
Unfortunately, technological advances often present challenges. The document and process workflow within EHR systems can be cumbersome compared with the normal activities of a physician. As a result, adoption and utilization of these systems has been slower than expected. Because of this, a significant amount of time that providers previously spent in front of patients is now often spent in front of a computer entering data.

As a result, systems and processes that were touted to improve patient documentation, save money, and better serve patients, often do just the opposite. Organizations find themselves forced to choose between government regulations and patient care.

Fortunately, because many forward-thinking service providers have chosen to change with the technology, human transcription has survived and, in some cases, thrived. In fact, for many organizations, transcription services remain an integral part of the clinical workflow. Transcription service providers can bridge the gap between the technological and human elements of providing patient reports.

The Technology Trap
Transcription service providers are in a unique position to provide a blend of both services and technology. Advanced technologies allow service providers to be competitive in an age when other methods that are considered more “high-tech” are looking to squeeze them out of the market.

And, because health care is not a “one-size-fits-all” market, many smaller service providers are able to coexist, and even collaborate, with larger vendors.

Problems can arise when transcription service providers begin to fall into the trap of replacing too much of the human aspect with technology. Because of advances in the industry, these companies are able to do more with less. They now can cover huge areas of geography—but at what cost to the customer? Who else is being overlooked? Companies can use e-mail options for service and support calls, but how effective is the service that customers receive in return? Companies can provide presentations, demonstrations, and needs assessment remotely, but is that always the most effective method? Just because technology enables you to do it, does that mean you should?

The Balance
Finding a fit for their services has meant that transcription providers have had to make big changes in the way they approach and support potential clients. Providing excellent customer service requires transcription service providers to think outside the box and provide for customer needs, balancing technology with the personal touch of their traditional service offerings.

Items to Consider
• Is your organization’s workflow impacted positively by the capabilities or limitations of the transcription service provider technology?

• Does the vendor’s technology provide quick and easy access to the right personnel to handle your questions or concerns, or does it seem to set up roadblocks?

• Does the transcription service provider take the time to listen and approach your needs as a consultant?

• If you request an onsite visit to address issues, train physicians, or for regular business reviews, is the vendor open to doing so in a timely manner?

• Is the vendor willing to work with your organization as a partner to enhance your current working environment as well as your future vision?

Great customer service should include optimizing workflow, better utilization of current applications, and meeting and exceeding the productivity demands. As the health care industry continues to undergo significant changes, providers are seeking new ways to improve operational performance, maintain compliance, and ensure patient safety and profitability.

New technologies, new processes, and new ways of thinking are essential to delivering better outcomes, forcing the health care industry to evolve. However, the need for real, meaningful, customer service remains the same.

Karen Davis is vice president of operations at SkyScription, LLC.