Medical Transcription: Professional Organizations
Benchmark KB Winner!
When we started this survey, you will recall we were also doing a drawing for a one-year subscription to the Benchmark KB Product. I used random.org to select a winner from those who entered. I’m happy to announce we have a winner. Heather Daniels is the winner from those who entered! Congratulations, Heather! Thanks as well to our friends at Interfix for their donation of this subscription and their support of this site.
This is part 2 of the survey conducted recently for medical transcriptionists. In this section, we looked at how medical transcriptionists feel about professional organizations and some thoughts they have on them. Perhaps this is also timely with all of the recent changes we’ve seen in the professional organizations in the medical transcription industry, so let’s take a look.
Which professional organizations do you belong to?
This is an area where the percentages won’t add up to 100% because more than one answer was allowed. Of those responding, 40.8% said they belong to AHDI, 7% to AHIMA, no one to HIMAA, and 22.5% to a local AHDI chapter. In addition to this, the largest group, 57.7% reported they don’t belong to any professional organization. Under other, two people belong to the Online Association of AHDI and one person belongs to the American Transcription Association (ATA).
While our group taking this particular survey show a pretty high membership in professional organizations, this doesn’t necessarily hold true in the general population. While AHDI does state they have 15,000 members, if you really look at the individual professional category, the numbers from December 2010 show only 3459. The bulk of that number are made up from the category titled “associate” and “associate student.” These are the two categories of “membership” that come automatically because someone has a subscription to the Benchmark KB product. That group has no vote or say in the association and many of those folks have the KB product because their employer or school has adopted it and paid for it. In 2010, the “individual professional” category saw a 15.7% drop in membership, from 4103 in January to 3459. The associate categories are where there is growth, with general associates growing 39.66% and the student associate category growing 212.64%, which I believe to be related to press releases last year showing that two large MT schools had adopted this for their curriculum. If the estimates of total MTs are really what we’ve heard over the years of close to 500,000 people doing this type of work, then those numbers show that in the “working MT” (my words for the individual professional category) category, we have less than less than 1% of those folks joining.
Why Do We Join Professional Organizations?
Although the responses here are way too lengthy to put them all into this article, I will summarize what I see here. The majority of the responses indicate a desire to belong to something, to be a part of something. That’s not surprising to me. As people, we generally want to belong to something, but, and this is also reflected in the responses, we want it to be something that makes a difference. For many people, the ability to network with others who understand what we do was a reason. For others, it was the access to continuing education opportunities.
Why Don’t We Belong, or Why Do We Leave Professional Organizations?
For this section, here’s the question that was posed: If you don’t currently belong to an MT-related professional organization, please share why you have made that choice. Here’s where I saw some pretty consistent responses. There were many who said it is cost prohibitive. Many more responded that they just didn’t feel it made a difference or they didn’t see a benefit to them in belonging. There were also some comments related to AHDI, the current organization for MTs, that indicated the respondents felt when the partnership with the employer organization happened, the needs of the individual MT no longer mattered.
This really is a “WIIFM” statement, or “what’s in it for me?” It is how we look at any investment we make. People want to belong to something that matters, something that makes a difference, and medical transcriptionists are no different.
I have said for years that I evaluate my own AHDI membership every single year before I sent the check to be sure I still have a return on the investment. I’ve also said that when/if that is no longer true, that’s the time I won’t write the check any longer. In the past 20 years, I’ve always written the check. I have to tell you, though, that I do not believe I will do that this year. My dues investment was due in February, or so I thought until yesterday, when I learned apparently it was due in January and I’m now in some kind of “suspended” status. I only learned this because I wrote to ask why I didn’t receive the letter that apparently went out to the membership about the resignation of the CEO. Now, our bylaws say you are to get a dues renewal notice AND if that’s not paid, you’re to get a delinquency notice giving you a date by which you will be dropped if you don’t pay it. I received neither. And before you ask, yes my contact information is up to date and I still get the publications. A decision to not renew isn’t one that says “I’m mad so I’m going away.” It’s simply a decision that says there’s no longer a return on investment for me. It both frustrates me and makes me sad. It also made me wonder how many of those 600 some members we lost last year are in the same boat, dropped and don’t even know it. Bylaws exist for a reason in any organization, they are the “rules” we are supposed to follow. With the continuing disregard for those “rules,” I’m just not sure it’s something I want to continue to support. And saying that makes me, frankly, sad. And yet, as many things in life, it is what it is.
What Do We Want from a Professional Association?
This one was quite telling to me and I think gives some good information about what we all hope to find in a professional organization. Let’s take a look at the percentage of people who answered “very important” on these items: Be an advocate for MTs with employers, 74.6%; Provide continuing education opportunities, 73.2%; Explore government options for addressing low MT wages, 69%; Provide information on technologies that impact medical transcription, 63.4%; Provide networking opportunities for MTs, 57.7%; Lobby legislators related to the changes in health care, 55.7%; Work with technology vendors as technology changes the profession, 55.1%; Participate in the Health Story Project, 30.4%.
When you average out all of the responses, these don’t really change except that continuing education opportunities did come out just a bit ahead of being an advocate for MTs with employers.
So let’s chat about that. Medical transcriptionists have always been passionate about education. It’s how we stay up to date in the field and are able to do our jobs well. And it’s not just medicine that we want to learn about, it’s also the technology changes that are impacting our day to day work lives. Networking fits in that desire to belong to a group that’s “like” us and knows what we do. I’m not sure why the Health Story Project came out so low in responses; perhaps it’s just that, as a group, we really don’t understand the value of doing that.
What I did see as fascinating were the two areas of wanting advocacy with employers and working with government officials around the area of low wages. Let me first be really clear. This question spoke to being an advocate with employers, not negotiating wages. I DO think that’s an area that a professional association can work on. And I think it’s done with things like networking with those employers, with creation of things like the MT Bill of Rights that we saw a few weeks ago, and such. What I think makes this more challenging is when an organization also includes those employers as members. It’s, in my mind, the thought that no one can serve two masters. If you stand up for one group at the expense of angering the other, let’s face, you will lose membership. And a loss of membership equates to a loss of revenue, something that’s not good for any business. Still, I remain firm in saying I do believe an organization could do these things and perhaps an organization that did that would actually make MTs feel like it made a difference.
How Much Should Dues Investment Be?
In this section, the responses were 43.7% who said $50, 11.3% said $75, 18.3% said $100, and 7% said $150. As “other” was an option, there were 19.7% who responded in that category. Most of those responses talked about the inability to pay much for dues because of their low wages. One response said they would want to see the benefits before they invested money. Another said any amount of dues would be worth it if something was actually being done.
It’s true that what we are able to pay is directly impacted by our income. With many people saying their income went down, it’s pretty easy to see why people don’t think dues should be much. I also think from a business perspective that it would be pretty tough to offer a lot of the things people say they would want for much less than $100. That said, exploring how to use technology to streamline costs would be a true value that is worth doing as well.
And now it’s up to you! What comments do you have to add to this discussion?
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