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UPMC will cut 100 transcribers' jobs

| Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

UPMC will outsource its transcription services at the end of June, laying off about 100 workers, as the Pittsburgh health care giant works to rein in administrative costs.

The workers, who transcribe dictated notes from doctors, are expected to be rehired by Nuance Communications Inc., a Burlington, Mass., software company that also provides transcription services to hospitals across the country, UPMC and Nuance officials said.

UPMC is cutting costs — mainly through targeted layoffs of employees whose jobs can be replaced by technology — because expenses are growing faster than revenue.

The nonprofit hospital chain has said it's not reducing its overall workforce of about 56,000, but employment won't grow either.

UPMC spokeswoman Gloria Kreps declined to say how many UPMC workers have lost jobs this year. Officials previously have said that they are restructuring finance departments and other administrative functions that are not directly involved in patient care.

“Systemwide, UPMC is always looking for opportunities to do things better. UPMC has been pursuing a number of initiatives to adjust our cost structure and improve our operating profitability,” Kreps said in a written statement.“UPMC is not downsizing.”

In the past several years, UPMC has added a net 2,000 to 2,500 jobs a year but is slowing its hiring as its business faces financial pressure. It expects between zero and 500 net new employees will be added this year.

UPMC, the largest hospital network in Western Pennsylvania, reported revenue of $7.6 billion and operating profit of $146.5 million for the nine months ended March 31. Although revenue was up from the same period a year ago, operating profit was off by 50 percent.

Profits are being squeezed by lower reimbursements from the government's Medicare and Medicaid programs, a long-term trend of treating more patients in outpatient settings that pays less, and higher expenses, officials have said.

UPMC and Nuance have worked together since 2011 to develop speech-recognition technology that can turn a doctor's dictated notes into electronic text, Kreps said. “This software is improving our efficiency and reducing our need for transcriptionists.”

Nuance employs 14 people in Pittsburgh who are involved in the UPMC partnership, spokeswoman Ann Joyal said. She said all UPMC transcriptionists were offered jobs with Nuance, but she did not know how many had accepted.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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