“We’re in financial devastation.”
That’s the stark assessment of a medical records transcriptionist who, last year, lost her job at a London hospital when it was out-sourced to Ottawa-based Accentus.
It’s the same firm hired by St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital to handle its transcription services, resulting in the loss of four full-time and an equal number of part-time jobs effective May 22.
With 12 years medical records experience in various capacities, the London transcriptionist, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, has been an independent contractor for Accentus since last November, when nearly 50 transcribing jobs were axed at two hospitals.
She works out of home, earns about $400 every two weeks and receives no benefits or sick time.
“My biggest thing is the quality of the work. We took great pride in our work when we worked at the hospital. The doctors really appreciated us. Now there are huge, blatant errors that come through in emails where we’re told ‘someone did this, don’t do it again.’
“It’s just ridiculous. It casts a bad shadow over the whole industry when there are people out there who are completely capable of doing this.”
Her comments echo those of dozens of disgruntled Accentus independent contractors posted on several blog sites, including http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/accentus.
Typical is this from ‘nyclim’:
“If you enjoy being paid less than minimum wage, stressing over finances, having no social life, being chained to your computer, computer problems, dealing with useless and mean-spirited supervisors and long hours, Accentus is just your thing.”
At the start of the year, Accentus was absorbed by an American firm, Nuance.
“Since Christmas they have brought on American transcriptionists to our accounts,” she advised. “Which, as far as we knew, was against our contract regulations. These American transcriptionists are guaranteed a certain number of minutes per week whereas the Canadians aren’t guaranteed anything.”
She raised concern about the quality of work being produced by some of the work-at-home contractors.
“They don’t just take on experienced transcriptionists. They will hire anyone who is straight out of school, so some of the things that come out are just atrocious.
“Once you are in full-time production there is a certain percentage of your work that gets checked every week. Usually with me, because I do so much, it’s about 5%. For someone doing a smaller amount of work it would be higher.”
She said she is paid 57.5 cents per minute of transcription.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s 30 seconds or 40 minutes long, it takes me two minutes to set up. A lot of the notes, because of the nature of the job we do, are very short. Like, a minute or less. They are a complete and total waste of my time.
“We are paid so little, the onus on perfection and the onus on quality is not there anymore. At the hospital, we were paid by the hour and I would re-read a note if I had to. We had quotas but they were not difficult to meet. I wouldn’t re-read now.
“If I had a word I couldn’t figure out I would look it up on the internet, talk to other people, phone the physician if I had to. I would go to any length necessary to find out something and make sure I had the appropriate content.
“I’m not paid well enough to do that now. We have team leaders and I would leave a blank and tell them to deal with it. Team leaders are paid by the hour and have a little more onus to do that.”
The lack of communication with account managers is also a problem area.
“As far as the account managers in Ottawa, I find it very challenging to get them on the phone. I find it very challenging to get any email answers. Anything important I need to talk about it, seems a real battle to get any information. There’s emails that I’ve sent about various things that I haven’t heard back on.”
Accentus has not responded to an interview request from the Times-Journal.
Citing confidentiality, Cathy Fox, STEGH’s communications/public relations specialist, would not disclose the annual cost of providing the transcription service through Accentus, but did say the hospital expects “a cost savings range of approximately $100,000 to $150,000 in 2013, with expected higher savings range in 2014 of approximately $200,000 to $250,000.”Follow @ianscityscope