Flexible transcriptionists not jobless in EHR era

There remains a "critical need" for transcriptionists, despite the adoption of electronic health records, so long as they can transition their expertise into health information management, according to a new survey released by the American Health Information Management Association and the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity.

According to the survey, released July 9, transcriptionists primarily are moving into roles as chart integrity auditors and health information management analysts. The most helpful skills for transcriptionists to move to EHR-oriented roles are communication, quality improvement and workflow analysis.

"The rise of EHR is just one of many growth areas in health care where the skills of a transcriptionist will be valuable," AHDI CEO Linda G. Brady said in an announcement. "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."

The survey also determined that 87 percent of transcriptionists acknowledged that new skills and knowledge gaps need to be identified; 53 percent of transcriptionists are willing to invest the time and resources to get an academic degree to make the transition. A separate survey of transcriptionist managers noted that 73 percent had no transition plan in place.

Both the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and at least one of the regional extension centers have developed workforce health IT training programs to increase the number of personnel qualified to deal with EHRs. AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon herself noted in the survey announcement that "[t]he transcriptionists that can demonstrate agility by moving into a new position can carve out a valuable niche for themselves."

To learn more:
- read the announcement (.pdf)
- learn about ONC's programs