As technology transforms our economy, employers sometimes face choices they’d rather avoid. When that happens, responsible managers do their best to treat everyone fairly and compassionately.
A recent Public Forum letter and related on-line comments expressed disappointment that Bay Area Hospital had chosen to “outsource” its medical transcription services. It has been suggested we’re exporting jobs to California.
I have a different perspective.
All across America, physicians and hospitals increasingly are adopting speech-recognition software to transcribe their dictation. Other computer-based documentation methods also reduce the need for traditional transcriptionists.
Bay Area Hospital was faced with a choice: Would we stand still while the dwindling work volume gradually pushed our transcriptionists toward unemployment? Or would we find a better solution?
We chose to contract with SoftScript, a company that employs transcriptionists to work from home. Yes, transcription jobs are being eliminated at the hospital. But the displaced transcriptionists have the opportunity to become SoftScript employees — not in California, but right here in Coos County. Working for SoftScript, they’ll have the chance to perform transcription not only for local physicians, but for physicians elsewhere in America.
So we’re not exporting jobs. Instead, I hope we actually will import continued employment for the former BAH transcriptionists.
In making the transition to SoftScript, we did our best to minimize disruption for our transcriptionists:
We negotiated with SoftScript to guarantee new jobs to any displaced transcriptionists.
We gave computers and transcription equipment to the new SoftScript employees, equipping them to work at home.
We provided a three-month benefits bridge to assure continuous health coverage.
Working for SoftScript, some of the former BAH transcriptionists may earn less than they did at the hospital. On the other hand, they will have jobs for the foreseeable future — something BAH couldn’t have guaranteed for them.
As a publicly owned medical center, BAH is responsible to its staff, to its patients, and to the community at large. We have to consider the welfare of our employees while providing the best possible care to our patients — and while keeping our costs reasonable.
In my view, the decision to contract with SoftScript for transcription services was the best way to balance those priorities.