By Rachel Tirabassi
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. medical transcription industry was already in a fragile state. More doctors are looking for alternative options to transcription and many turned to new technology like speech recognition. Emerging documentation technology caused many skilled transcriptions to take huge pay cuts, lose their job and find an entirely new career.
Fast forward to 2020 and transcriptionists are barely holding on. A lot of other professionals are adjusting to working at home, but transcriptionists are adjusting to the possibility of being unemployed by 2021. Some are already facing this reality. One longtime transcriptionist from the “COVID-19 Impact on the American Medical Transcription Industry” Facebook group explains her devastating experience, “The last day I worked this year was 03/20/2020. I was fired, according to my trainer, for not being able to do the work to their standards (every morning there was no more than 2 or 3 jobs for 16 transcriptionists). I have never been fired in my life and have worked for over 24 years as a transcriptionist.” There is little job security for even the most experienced and skilled transcriptionists.
One transcriptionist named Cindy, still has her job but the volume of work decreased resulting in less pay. Reduced hours are causing problems for a lot of transcriptionists. Cindy explains, “I did not qualify for any unemployment nor PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) because I made more than my ‘weekly benefit’ for my state unemployment. I worked every day I was scheduled, albeit some days very little work but I sat here all day and clicked the refresh button hoping another job would come in – sometimes one did come in, sometimes not.” According to Investopedia.com, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a program that temporarily expands unemployment insurance (UI) eligibility to self-employed workers, freelancers, contractor, and part-time workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. On paper, PUA sounds like it could help a lot of struggling transcriptionists during the pandemic. Unfortunately, this is not the case for most individuals due to high denial rates. If a PUA claim gets denied it does give most the option to “appeal”, but some describe this task as “impossible.” One transcriptionist even said she “gave up trying to appeal.” However, others claimed they fought the denial and were able to appeal it. Another issue is that some transcriptionists have not received their PUA benefits because their application has been “Under Review” for weeks. One Facebook member claims that she has yet to receive a dime since she first applied in March. She discusses her frustration, “I called this morning and they put me on the callback list. The operator said it could take 24 to 48 hours.” From application denials to being left on hold for weeks, the system needs a lot of improvement and transcriptionists are struggling.
Most transcriptionists that work in law and medical offices had to transition from working in a traditional office to their home. TranscriptionGear.com experienced a slight spike in sales for transcription equipment and software. TG’s sales manager, Jill, explains the spike in sales is due to security concerns and the need for multiple licenses. A lot of offices did not want important documents on their employees’ unsecured home computers. The new equipment also allows office employees to have separate licenses so they do not have to move back and forth between computers. The new equipment helped medical and law offices adjust to their “new normal.”
Everyone is learning how to navigate the coronavirus pandemic. Transcriptionists should join the Facebook Group, “COVID-19 Impact on the American Medical Transcription Industry” for more support and guidance. Medical and law offices should reach out to TranscriptionGear.com to make sure they have the right tools they need while working at home.