Off The Record

The Doctor – Transcriptionist Relationship: Now, that’s Scandalous


Theirs is an unlikely relationship.  Not exactly like Demi and Ashton, but still.

If you placed a Physician (Doc, for today’s purposes) alongside a Medical transcriptionist (MT), it’s likely you couldn’t find two people with less in common.  So you think.

It’s true, our imaginary Doc and MT probably hail from very different backgrounds.  One holds advanced degrees, commands a top-dollar salary and enjoys peer respect, and patient gratitude.  (Hopefully.) The other may hold a college degree, but often learns on the job, earns an hourly wage and mostly completes his or work under the radar.  Very often – at home, staving isolation and the jeers of dishes and laundry.

Each one has their share of professional headaches – pun intended.  But each may develop a sort of unspoken animosity toward the other.  Each may look at the other one’s intentions with skepticism, each critical (or oblivious) to the other one’s gifts, talents and challenges.  Docs may become frustrated when the MT makes a mistake that should have been examined; MT’s might assume Docs are just rude when they talk too fast or pause too long – or cough, snort or burp while recording.  They really are human, after all!


Just like any other – this “relationship” requires some empathy and grace.  Easier said than done!


Bound Together by The Almighty Patient History:  Errors Not Permitted

Still, these two share something powerful in common.  They must work in tandem to ensure a patient’s medical history – the chief vehicle through which doctors, specialists and surgeons communicate – is maintained with integrity.  No mistakes allowed.

Funny – a Doc may never meet the MT who painstakingly interprets his or her spoken notes and drafts a report that merges with the patient’s history for all time.  S/he may never get a chance to thank the MT for taking every effort to navigate fast-talkers, murmurs, thick accents or the background noises of a rousing football game – interpreting text where there is no margin for error.

Doctors might not have a reputation for humility.   But the truth is – they would do well to practice manners in recording data that another is required translate and code under the relentless pressure of time.  They might feel an MT’s job is a routine one.  But where would they be without him or her?

Conversely – the MT must try to empathize with Docs.  Can you imagine having to record every single interaction with a patient?  To live with the constant worry that one mistake could cause irreparable unintended consequences?

Come on, you two.  Stand in the other person’s surgical booties.  Or high heels.  (Or slippers!)

A Little R-E-S-P-E-C-T goes a Long Way, Both ways:  What Docs and MT’s Really Want

Of course, at the end of the day, it’s the Doctor who signs the MT’s report.  With his or signature comes the responsibility that the content is accurate and up-to-date.  The two must work out their differences to turn out a perfect report – every time.  Here’s how everyone involved can help the process:

Docs:  A wise physician shows implicit courtesy and respect to the MT on the receiving end by speaking slowly and clearly.  Try to record data in an area free of noise and distraction.

MT’s:  Never assume a Doc doesn’t appreciate your work, even if you don’t get a card.  But send one.  Thank the Docs that do show courtesy, and give grace to the ones who record while driving in rush hour traffic.  Remember, their jobs are stressful too.  (Think cranky patients.)

HIM’s: Create ways for MT’s and Docs to “touch” each other.  Ask to post pictures of MT’s around the administration office.  Distribute a newsletter periodically singing their praises and highlighting their work.  Offer tips to Docs with regard to recording, and periodically distribute a card for their signature to thank the MT staff.

A little mutual respect, empathy and kindness goes a long way in improving the “relationship” between Docs and MT’s.  Patients depend on both to deliver the best care possible!


Like our blog?  Join the conversation.  Got a topic related to medical transcription or health information management you’d like us to cover?  Connect with me at:






Leave a Reply

iData image