Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Transcription the WD-40 of Healthcare

WD-40 is renown as a solution for all sorts of problems (the list of 2000+ uses - pdf) - in a recent e-mail I received it was cited as follows:
You only need two tools in life WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn't move and should use WD-40. If it shouldn't move and does use the Duct Tape
We have been hearing that transcription is the being replaced and will eventually disappear being replaced by direct data entry into Electronic Medical Records. But to borrow from a famous saying "the reports of the death of transcription have been greatly exaggerated". A fact hammered home in a recent presentation by L Gordon Moore, MD at the 2008 Scientific Assembly of American Academy of Family Physicians and reported in an article by Healthcare IT News "Beware of the EMR 'Ponzi' Scheme". Dr Moore did not mince his words:
When you put an EMR into a primary care practice, your life is hell for the next year
EMR's are essential to delivering high quality care. We need the support of technology to help deliver the highest possible quality of care. But the penetration of these solutions in the marketplace are a good indication that there are difficulties with these systems and implementations. On a a recent visit to an office with a newly installed EMR system I compared the experience to prior visits. The process of interacting with the screen (be it a tablet or desktop PC or some other mobile device) was very intrusive and difficult to manage while trying to interact with the patient. It is next to impossible to enter data on a screen while looking at the patient. So what I think Dr Moore is referring to is the difficulty of entering in clinical data to these systems - I bet he loves the ready access to all the patients clinical information but hates entering anything.

There are no easy answers and certainly not one answer to suit all situations but there is a reason that dictation by physicians and the transcription of this material has been an expanding industry that has insufficient resources to meet demand. The process works and has been the WD-40 for healthcare documentation for many years. The process has improved in efficiency moving from wax recording drums to digital recording systems and portable recording devices that include digital recording pens. We have added technology to speed up the transcription process counteracting the original design intention of the typewriter and the QWERTY Keyboard which was laid out in this format to separate out the most commonly used keys to slow typists down! Macros, auto correct, word expanders, speech recognition and most recently speech understanding. But through all these efficiencies the medical transcription or Clinical Documentation Specialist Knowledge Based worker remains a key contributor and an essential part of the process. They continue to be the WD-40 in the process of producing meaningful clinical documents to transmit clinical information to the ever growing participants of the healthcare team charged with taking care of patients. Clinicians will dictate their notes - its fast, efficient and cost effective when you consider the cost of the clinician. As Dr Leonard McCoy put it in Star Trek:

To grease the wheels of clinical communication, medical transcription and clinical documentation continues to evolve allowing for the free form narrative dictation but extracting the clinical data that the EMRs are hungry for. Fulfilling both needs requires the next generation of clinical documents using the HL7 CDA standard for Common Document Types (CDA4CDT). These documents support the flow of data from dictated clinical information to narrative documents and into structured, computer accessible records that EMRs can accept directly to support patient care with discreet clinical data.

However one word of caution on efficiencies that is best summarized by Dilbert - "...I have infinite capacity to do more work as long as you don't mind my quality approaches zero":

1 comment:

Deb said...

Thank you for the excellent post. I'm a medical transcriptionist working for a team of oncologists and have read quite often that my job is threatened by either workers in India or by technology. I hope this is incorrect as there are many of us quietly working in this profession to the very best of our abilities, and we are dedicated to helping our team of providers and towards patient care. Additionally, many of us greatly appreciate working from home, which also helps the environment (no commuting, etc.) and family stability, too.

However, we often feel beat up, ignored, or just not valued, and yet, countless times we come through for our providers, often catching errors, correcting grammar/punctuation, or managing to produce a quality report dictated on the run or by an ESL physician.

I appreciate your article and am happy to be the WD-40 for my doctors and nurses.