Like any other forms of texts, medical transcription copies need to be edited and spot-checked for syntactical (order of words), semantic (denotation and connotation), jargon-related and technical errors. Transcription, after all, is still an emergent science, and so is the technology used for it. Errors are bound to happen—some of them so atrocious and hopeless that there’s no use getting angry over them and that it’s so much better to simply laugh them off. Unfortunately, most of these errors are no laughing matter and can be as deadly as in the case of Alabama patient Sharron Juno.
Sharron Juno, as The Daily Record Newswire, an aggregate content agency, reports, “died of a typo.” Juno received ten times the dose of her regular insulin shots because of a transcription error, committed by an outsourced transcription sub-contractor in India. Her doctor dictated 8, but the transcriber typed 80 instead. Sadly, no one in the hospital where Juno was getting her insulin shots bothered to verify the dosage. The jury was so peeved about the irresponsible actions of the defendants—Thomas Hospital in Fairhope, Alabama and the India-based transcription company—that it penalized both companies $140 million for damages.
Now stories like this exist not just to discipline budding transcriptionist but to serve as a reminder of how sensitive transcripts are. Certified Medical Transcriptionists have both a professional and public service-driven duty (despite working in a cubicle or from home) to churn out transcripts devoid of errors. A review process or quality assurance check may filter errors on a medical transcriptionist’s work, but it won’t do in preventing such errors from happening again. Thus, meetings for constant feedback and training should always be provided to transcriptionists.
We’ve listed some common medical transcription errors that you may have overlooked from time to time. Read through this list and take it to heart.
- Words that sound alike. May include anything from brand and generic names for medications, and like-sounding words, e.g. hypertension/hypotension, apophysis/epiphysis, appose/oppose. Read more examples in our comprehensive collection of Sound Alike Words.
- Wrong Settings. This occurs when the MT set the wrong filters or inputs the wrong corrections to the transcription software. The software itself has enough bugs, but choosing the wrong setting further complicates matters.
- Lab errors. Physicians may sometimes talk too fast or fail to pause while dictating their prescription or diagnosis which often causes a problem for MTs. Often times, MTs are left to guess. If you aren’t sure about where the punctuation should go, check with your medical transcription editor. Do not make unintelligent guesses—it’s not a science experiment. Someone’s life may be on the line.
- Incorrect lab values. Let’s face it—understanding and using lab values is no cake walk. Lab values come in the form of esoteric abbreviations and standards of measurements that are hard to memorize because they are spelled alike and sound alike other medical terms.
- Dosage errors. As with Juno’s case, the MT either misheard the dosage dictated and typed 80 instead of 8 or it may simply be a case of typos. Either way, the repercussion of the MT’s mistake was irreversible. And while some researchers suppose that the implementation of a computerized physician order entry (CPOE) system can minimize the occurrence of transcription-based dosage errors, these errors can only be avoided with attention to details and cross-checking data.
- Spelling errors. Spelling errors often occur with equipment and medication brand names. Wrong capitalization and hyphenations of words are also considered spelling mistakes. If you’re unsure of something, you can always Google, or better yet, refer to your compendium of medical terms. You can improve your typing skills for medical transcription, too.
Keep your copy from being a mine field of error by being meticulous, contextualizing the things you hear or read, and verification. Being extra careful helps in preventing the implications of transcription errors and protecting yourself and your employer for liabilities.