There's a saying that says "A rose by any other name is still a rose." And I suppose that's true. So what's really in a name? What does it tell us. Let's take a minute and look at how our profession has evolved.
<h2><strong>A Bit of History</strong></h2>
I remember the days where one of my first job titles was "medical stenographer." I sure didn't like that one. We've gone from clerks, to typists, to clerk-typists, stenographers, and just about everything in between. We've had to push for the title of medical transcriptionist. Not too many years ago, the phrase "medical language specialist" started popping up. I can't say I was ever too keen on that because if I were an author of medical textbooks, I could be a medical language specialist.
Oh yes, and let's not forget the absurd. When we started seeing speech recognition technology being used, I recall one vendor/speaker who wanted to call us "correctionists." Now he would deny that today, but I was there for at least one presentation where that was the way we were referred to! Nope, didn't like that one either. So then we became editors, at least most places.
<h2><strong>Why Does It Matter?</strong></h2>
Some might say why does it matter? Really, it's been tough for anyone outside of our profession to really understand what we do. We have always had to explain it. I remember once saying "No, that does not mean I type the labels for your prescriptions."
Today I am a firm believer that it does indeed matter what we call ourselves. Here's some sad reality for you. The term "medical transcriptionist" is becoming synonymous with the phrase "costs way too much money" in today's electronic world. Simply put, we are seen as a pure cost center that generates nothing toward the bottom line except a lot of red ink. Now before you get on a rampage here, yes, you and I both know that nothing happens in billing without what we do. Nothing happens in litigation without those documents. But that's something we know among ourselves, not something that is very easily understood by the rest of the world in health care.
Today, health care is all about the electronic health record. It's about data and how to be sure that data is available electronically. And yes, today, "medical transcription" still isn't understood as the way that the data is generated. Technology vendors are perhaps the group who most use the phrase "medical transcription," second only to those of us in the industry. And you know how they use it? To talk about how the cost of what we do will disappear in the electronic health record setting.
<h2><strong>A New Name!</strong></h2>
I've been chairing the AHDI Model Curriculum task for this past year. You've heard me talk about this group before, they are hard workers and really dedicated. They took on the challenge of poking the box and seeing how we can prepare a curriculum that meets the future needs of the industry. In perhaps one of the biggest "poke the box" moves I've seen in our industry for awhile, we looked at the name as well. We found one we believe is great, and two weeks ago, the changes in the model curriculum were unanimously approved by the AHDI National Leadership Board. Are you ready for it?
<font size="5">Clinical Documentation Specialist</font>
I love this new title. It speaks to what we do. And yes, there will be people who don't like it, don't think it's right for our role, etc., etc. We have often been chastised for considering using the word "clinical," and yet I disagree. We aren't clinicians, but the documentation we produce is indeed clinical documentation. The word "clinical" gets attention and speaks to those who are putting together the electronic health record. It also speaks to our knowledge and understanding of clinical medicine.
<h2>Time to Stand Up!</h2>
Now it will be up to us, those professionals in this industry. Here's my challenge to you: Embrace the new name. Start now to use it. Start telling people you work in clinical documentation. Be bold about it, hold your head high, and don't let someone deter you from claiming it as your own. It's past time for us to stop letting someone else define us and what we do. It's time to take charge of writing our own story. It's time we do that ourselves.
If you don't have education about the electronic health record, get it now. Now's the time to be sure you understand the technologies so you can articulate your value clearly. If you're not sure how you might fit in, consider the Introduction to the Electronic Health Record course offered here. If you already have some knowledge and want to give yourself an indepth understanding and ability to compete for emerging roles in the EHR, sign up for the Clinical Documentation Professional program beginning in January.
What will you do to be a part of this change?