A team of typists has been hired by a British Hospital to help in typing of letters from doctors to patients. The main advantage of this cost-effective system is that the letters would be typed in less than a day, enabling the hospital trust to save a considerable amount at the end of the day.
The Harshill complex of the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, facing debts of nearly £15.5 million, took the step to cut its operating costs. Correspondence is typed in India and returned to the trust within 24 hours.
The system is on trial for a month, but indications are that a long-term arrangement with the typists team in India is likely.
The system - Digital Offshore Transcription (DOT) - sees the correspondence dictated verbally by a doctor. It is stored as a digital file on a computer that is then transferred by email to a unit in India staffed by what the hospital describes as 'qualified and experienced medical typists'.
The typists then listen to the doctor's notes and type them into a letter, which is returned by email. The DOT system is being used on a trial basis in the fracture clinic, where there is said to be a shortage of medical secretaries and the nature of the work is unpredictable.
Hospital officials told The Sentinel newspaper that the staff decided on the trial because of difficulties in recruiting experienced medical secretaries and an increase in the number of patients being treated.
According to a statement from the hospital, if was not possible to recruit the right type of secretaries due to financial difficulties.
At least 750 employees were already facing compulsory redundancy from the hospital.
Mark Mould, divisional general manager, said: 'We wanted to trial this service to support our medical secretaries who have sometimes been under a great deal of pressure with competing priorities. In the past, when extra cover has been needed, we have used agency staff.'
'The big advantage of the DOT service is that we do not need a fixed contract. We can use the service as and when we need to. It is early days, but so far the results look very promising, with accurate letters being turned around within 24 hours.
'This takes a lot of the pressure off the staff, allowing them to get on with other aspects of their work. It also improves the service for patients and other healthcare professionals.'