As you evaluate transcription services, consider compatibility, specifically compatibility with your electronic medical records (EHR) system. Many services offer EHR integration and free technical support so transferring and filing patient records is easy.
A quality service should offer flexible options for uploading dictation and receiving completed records. In our reviews, we've highlighted whether the service has a mobile app that can receive dictations as well as other ways (voice recorder, phone, etc.) the company can receive audio files. The following criteria also factored into our rankings.
The rates medical transcription services charge varies. Some charge by the minute, but this is considered less than satisfactory, because it can be expensive, and it's difficult to audit the quality of the completed work compared to what the service charged.
The standard pricing model used by many services is known as the 65 visible black character (VBC) line. This means that if you can see a character in black ink – including letters, numbers and punctuation – it counts toward a 65 VBC. Even if your transcribed document cuts off at 55 VBCs, you will be billed the 65 VBC rate. This is widely considered as the most transparent, auditable way to set rates.
In our research, we found that prices ranged from 7 to 14 cents per line on average. There were certain circumstances where pricing dipped as low as 4 cents per line, though this was predicated on the purchase of additional products or services. The best transcript services have a base rate of 7 or 8 cents per line, plus they offer other conveniences, such as entry into your practice's electronic medical record (EMR) system; this typically costs 2 or 3 cents per line.
The best services offer online editing and electronic signatures. Doctors can make changes and sign records without printing them out. As you evaluate services, be on the lookout for hidden fees.
Check whether the service charges you for faxing or creating customized templates. Ask, too, if the service offers free backup and storage so you have added protection against data loss.
Accuracy and Privacy
All of the transcription services we reviewed are HIPAA compliant.
HIPAA mandates that specific security features must be in place to prevent patients' medical information from being compromised. Secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption scrambles a patient's personal information, making it illegible to unauthorized recipients. HIPAA requires services to use at least 128-bit encryption, though some services use even stronger encryption.
The best dictation services have multiple levels of quality assurance checks in place to ensure documents are free from major errors. Ask whether the service has a dedicated certified medical transcriptionist. (We've attempted, where possible, to mention this in our reviews.) Every physician has their dictation style; an assigned transcriptionist grows accustomed to a doctor's technique, and coupled with their background and training, can review records to ensure accuracy.
Dictation Capture Methods
There are several ways to capture dictation and send it to a transcription service. Traditional phone-in dictation is still popular ‒ it's easy to access, and you don't have to buy any additional software or hardware. Another method involves using a digital voice recorder; doctors can dictate during their rounds or after appointments, but someone has to upload the recordings to a computer to send them.
Many services have mobile apps that are compatible with iOS and Android devices. You can use them whenever you are connected to the internet. Plus, with some services, you can dictate using the microphones on your tablet or laptop.
Most services offer varying levels of EHR integration. With some services, you may have to copy and paste transcribed text into a patient's electronic chart. Other services may offer methods where records are imported into the EHR.
All the services we reviewed offered a web-based account where clients can access finished transcriptions. You might consider services that fax or automatically print documents at specific machines in your office or in referring physicians' offices. (Check whether the service charges an additional fee for this.)