A Day In The Life Of An Indian Medical Transcriptionist

Joel Felix Kirubakaran epitomizes the new breed of young, energetic, hardworking Indian medical transcriptionists. Unlike you or me, he goes to sleep at the crack of dawn. He is one of many thousands of hardworking Indian medical transcriptionists who work at night or what is known as the “graveyard shift” in MT parlance.

Twenty-eight-year-old Joel is a “night bird” who works for the Chennai office of one of the biggest players in the medical transcription industry, Acusis, and he prefers working nights. He claims the silence of the night helps him concentrate and do justice to his job. Of course, the night shift allowance is an added incentive that motivates him and many others in working hard and saving money for their families and investing in their children’s education.

Why does Joel work at night? The reason is simple. It is night in India when it is daytime in the USA, and STAT jobs (those that have to be done ASAP) come during the night shift (late evening in the USA) have few takers among American transcriptionists. Very few American transcriptionists work at night, and Indian transcriptionists capitalize on this. As a matter of fact, one can find Indian medical transcriptionists, like Joel, working seven days a week–something that would be anathema to an American medical transcriptionist. For transcriptionists such as Joel, this is a heaven-sent opportunity to add wealth to their middle class families.

Joel transcribes an average of 600 lines per shift and then he edits 1000 lines done by junior transcriptionists who are yet to make the grade of direct-upload transcriptionists. He is a Difficult File Specialist, belonging to a designation created for experienced editors who are confident of taking on files dictated by ESL doctors (doctors who are not proficient in English but have learned Anandi Gopal Joshi English as a second language) or doctors who mumble or eat an apple or a sandwich while they dictate, having no consideration whatsoever about the people who transcribe their reports. Estimates place ESL doctors in the USA at around 40% but those who dictate as if they don’t care whether their reports are transcribed properly or not is much greater. In fact, a lot of medical transcriptionists have complained about the quality of dictation of doctors, some of them going even so far as describing the dictation as “verbal diarrhea.” In fact, one of the leading luminaries of the medical transcription field, George Heymont, has a web site entitled “Dictation Therapy for Doctors.

There are many doctors who mumble and dictate while eating an apple, a sandwich, or whatever. Joel has a hearty laugh while correcting mistakes by freshers who transcribe phonetically instead of taking the context into account; for example, an Eastern European dictator may appear to say “dyspareunia” when he actually means “dyspnea,” but since Joel is thorough with medical terminology, he edits the errors and marks a copy to the transcriptionist so that the same error is not repeated.

Joel is intensely religious and prays to the crucifix on his desktop whenever he starts work. He strongly believes that God has a mission for him and that this mission is the transcription of error-free accurate medical reports. He loves his job and takes intense pride in his work. He prefers to think of himself as some kind of Florence Nightingale who fills up the vacuum created by the shortage of American medical transcriptionists. As he himself puts it, “Those patients need their reports as soon as possible, and we Indians are doing them yeoman service by sending them across as soon as possible. Just imagine how anxious those patients are about receiving their reports on time. I am thankful to God that I am in this profession.” I can only nod my head in agreement, while sharing a cup of tea with Joel, and wonder what heights India will reach if all Indian citizens started copying Joel’s work ethic.


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