Deadly medical transcription errorsWay With Words

The deadly cost of medical transcription errors

Did you know that the cost of medical transcription errors can be deadly? A very sobering thought indeed.


In 2008, a patient died as a result of a transcription typo. Her name was Sharron Juno. She had suffered with diabetes all her life and died as a result of a transcription error. The transcript was outsourced to a contractor in India. The issue was with the incorrect transcribing of her dosage. The report was meant to read ‘8’ and instead read ‘80’. Sharron passed away after receiving an insulin dose that was ten times more than it should have been. This incorrect medication dosage was administered to her on the 19th March 2008 and caused irreparable brain injury and cardiopulmonary arrest. Sharron died on the 27th March 2008.

The hospital involved was Thomas Hospital in Fairhope, Alabama. The plaintiff’s family sued both the hospital and the outsourced contractor. The jury’s anger led to a $140 million verdict in favour of the plaintiff.

The doctor’s dictated notes were outsourced to India to be transcribed. A nurse couldn’t find the original notes and instead used the transcribed notes. Unfortunately the transcription contained a multitude of critical errors including the one that ultimately led to Sharron’s death.



How did a mistake like this happen?

Initially, the hospital was utilising a transcription company in the United States. Due to cost saving measures, it was decided to outsource their transcription work to India. The deal saved them 2 cents per line.

A number of witnesses appeared on behalf of the plaintiff and testified to the ‘awful quality’ of the Indian transcription companies. Apparently the United States based transcription company follows a specific set of standards in relation to medical transcription. In the trial, it became evident that the Indian companies don’t adhere to the same standards that the U.S. companies follow. In fact, they only follow one half to one fifth of the U.S. standards.


Can mistakes like this be avoided?

As transcription is largely a human endeavour, mistakes are possible. However, deadly errors like this can be avoided. When choosing a transcription company follow these simple rules:

  1. Make sure that there are no language barriers and that the transcribers are native English speakers. This will ensure that the accents are understood.
  2. Ensure that the transcription company has highly skilled and experienced transcribers.
  3. Try and check the transcript to ensure everything has been fully captured. Consider getting an independent review of the file.

If you follow these simple rules, deadly mistakes like this will be avoided.

You can be assured that at Way With Words we only employ the cream of the crop as we have a rigorous recruitment process. All our transcribers are native speaking linguists who understand various accents and are subject specialists. Contact us at to see how we can help you get an accurate and timeous transcription done.

5 thoughts on “Medical Transcription Errors”

  1. Happened to read this by chance and took the time to say how true it is. The debate now is not really whether to oursource BPO work but to insure (note spelling) the services offered by any company are accountable to the local language requirements of that service.

    Hospitals are a case in point, as you state here, but look at almost any industry where a decision on correct interpretation or meaning can make or break peoples lives, career, job or even the company value. I say all this being in the financial sector where bad decisions have been traced back to a secretary or administrator who was tasked to transcribe a key boardroom meeting during her lunch time. The decision involved many $ millions. She was tired, overworked, without any knowledge of the industry and we can assume careless. Can you imagine!!!!?

  2. Our company had something similar when a company strategic review discussion was transcribed offshore – may have been in the Phillipines. Our company retrenched a section of key staff following the understanding of the instructions of the board. It turned out after some quick investigations by the Board that the transcriber had made an error with “fire”. It was missing a second part being “up”.

  3. The nurse could not find the original notes and instead used the transcribed notes. Ideally the transcriber should have got a clarification on the high dose of insulin. Ditto for the nurse who gave that injection. It is pointless to blame the transcriber (Indian or American) because more often than not dictations are done in a very careless, casual manner and 8 and 80 sound very similar. It is the duty of the caregiver to be extremely careful with the lives of their patients. When the complications of a wrong insulin dose are well known, isn’t it common sense to get it confirmed with the treating physicians, especially since the dose was so high.

    1. I entire;y am in line with the above observation. Bottom line is that the administering of a drug is the responsibility of the trained medical professional, specially one trained and practicing the profession in UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

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