Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic is offering "voluntary separation packages" to at least 400 medical transcriptionists, according to the Post-Bulletin. Even though the health system is not using the terms "layoffs" or "job cuts," most medical transcriptionists "believe this is beginning of the end for their department."

The health system is positioning the move as one part of a larger flow stream in the industry.

"The reduction in dictation volumes is a national industry trend," Roshy Didehan, chair of practice administration at Mayo Clinic, told Healthcare Dive. "In response to this trend, Mayo Clinic is looking at ways to manage the transcription workforce, which is why we offered this voluntary separation package to all transcription staff who may be interested in leaving Mayo Clinic and/or pursuing other opportunities. We do not yet know how many will choose this option, nor do we yet know the longer-term reductions in transcription volumes."

Some are pointing to technology as a possible replacement to human counterparts in transcription services. That technology, specifically, is the electronic health record, which apparently began its implementation in the summer of 2017 across the Mayo Clinic Health System Wisconsin, followed by the Minnesota system in the fall. Mayo Clinic Rochester goes live with its system in May 2018. The process comes to a close at the Mayo Clinic’s Florida and Arizona locations later in the year.

However, the Mayo Clinic says the buyouts are not related to the EHR implementation.

"The need for medical transcriptionists to convert dictation into written reports is also declining," Didehban told Becker's Hospital Review. "We've had honest, ongoing conversations with our staff about this change and are taking steps to help reduce the effect of this change on our staff, including offering individuals considering alternative career paths the option to receive a voluntary separation package."

Experts have long thought that EHR technology might reduce demand for employees, causing organizations to scale back or eliminate staffed positions. If the connection between the two — the implementation of EHR and the reduction in transcription employees is related, the realization of that industry promise has arrived, and this might be one of the healthcare sector's first case studies.

Until this is verified (though most will draw lines together in a similar fashion) the electronic health record technology vendors must wait with bated breath to promote this case. But even if not publicly touted, this will be celebrated in private as such.