Howard Hoffmann, president and chief executive officer of MedQuist, a Mount Laurel, N.J.-based medical transcription service provider, was at the American Health Information Management Association convention in Philadelphia this week, at least in part to put a controversy behind him and his company.
Hoffmann was letting customers and the media know both he and the company were still standing after struggling through waves of Securities and Exchange Commission accounting reviews, and the announcement in July that its largest shareholder, Amsterdam-based Royal Philips Electronics, may divest itself of some or all of its approximately 70% stake in MedQuist.
Hoffmann, in an interview at the convention, said that MedQuist is current in all of its SEC-mandated financial filings, has hired investment banker Bear, Stearns & Co. to handle any Philips divesture and, two weeks ago, bought out the North American intellectual property rights from Philips to the front-end software MedQuist uses with clients to accept transcriptions. Hoffmann said that there are three investment groups that have a 5% or greater ownership stake in the company besides Philips, so "anything is a possibility," regarding future ownership. He was grinning when he said that.
Even if there is a full divesture, MedQuist will continue to use Philips' speech-recognition software, which it uses now under license. Hoffmann said that the company finally has integrated the operations of more than 50 transcription companies it has acquired over the years, and he's looking forward to what he called the "optimization phase" of those assets.
He foresees continuing consolidation in the still highly fractured medical transcription industry. He also sees further market penetration in some specialties for so-called "front-end" speech recognition software, in which the clinician dictates into a computer system equipped with software that converts voice into a draft of text that can then be edited by the clinician. It differs from "back-end" systems, where the initial edits are done by transcriptionists either employed by the provider or by a transcription service.
"I think radiology will convert completely to front-end and some of the (other) medical specialties," Hoffmann says. "I can see it for some of the quicker documents, but I don't see it for some of the longer documents such as a complete history and physical."
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