Mayo Clinic wants to shrink its roster of 400 transcriptionists by offering “voluntary separation” agreements as more physicians switch to voice-recognition software for dictating medical notes on patients.

For decades, Mayo doctors at the end of patient visits have phoned into a centralized system to dictate their notes, which then are typed into the medical record by the clinic’s staff of trained transcriptionists.

The old transcription service isn’t going away, but more health care workers are now dictating notes into voice-recognition software that lets them edit the note within the electronic health record system, said Roshy Didehban, the chairwoman for practice administration at Mayo Clinic, which is based in Rochester.

“With more voice technologies entering the marketplace, we’re seeing that the volume of those transcribed notes is reducing,” Didehban said. “And so, the need for the volume of transcriptionists we’ve had historically has also reduced.”

The clinic said it is not currently eliminating jobs or threatening layoffs. Didehban didn’t use the word “buyout” to describe the separation agreements being offered to workers this month, but she said those who accept the voluntary option will receive a separation payment.

Transcriptionists are being asked to decide by mid-May whether they might want to leave Mayo employment or perhaps pursue another job within the clinic.

Didehban said it’s too soon to say what would happen if workers don’t respond. “We don’t have a number in mind,” she said.

Transcriptionists have been on the job at Mayo Clinic for more than 30 years. The clinics started making voice-recognition software available to doctors for dictating medical notes since 2009 in Rochester, and they subsequently introduced the technology throughout its five-state health system.

More physicians, nurse practitioners and other clinicians are now using the new technology, Didehban said, just as more people are accessing information on their iPhones via Siri — an automated personal assistant service from Apple that uses voice recognition software.

“Our goal is not to eliminate it,” Didehban said of the existing transcription service. “Our goal is to ensure that that service is available for those providers who choose to utilize it, but that we have the right size of workforce for the work that exists.”

Mayo currently is switching vendors for its electronic health record as part of an ongoing $1.5 billion technology upgrade. Didehban said the offer of voluntary separation agreements to transcriptionists is not related to the change.

Mayo Clinic treated 1.3 million patients last year. With clinics and hospitals in Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the clinic in 2017 posted net income of $707 million on nearly $12 billion in revenue.