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Medical transcriptionists transcribe medical records dictated by physicians and other health care providers, receiving dictation by tape or a digital voice system. A foot pedal is used to control the starting and stopping of the dictation. Word processing software is used to produce the reports. 

Medical transcriptionists work primarily in hospitals, clinics, physician offices, and transcription services.  Some work in their homes as independent contractors, subcontractors, or as home-based employees.

Duties and Responsibilities 

Medical transcriptionists:

  • Transcribe various medical reports that include histories and physical examinations, progress reports, emergency room notes, consultations, operative reports, discharge summaries, clinic notes, referral letters, radiology reports, pathology reports, and various other documents from over 60 medical specialties and subspecialties. 
  • Edit a variety of correspondence, reports, memoranda, and other material requiring judgment as to content, accuracy, and completeness. 

Qualifications 

Medical transcriptionists must have knowledge of:

  • Medical terminology from various specialties, including surgical instruments and laboratory and diagnostic tests
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Disease processes
  • Pharmacology
  • English grammar and punctuation
  • Medical report organization
  • Word processing software
  • General vocabulary
  • Ethics
  • Medicolegal issues (i.e., confidentiality)

Abilities 

Typing and transcription should not be confused; there is much more to transcribing than typing. Medical transcriptionists must have an extensive knowledge and understanding of medical terminology, sound judgment, deductive reasoning, and the ability to detect medical inconsistencies in dictation. The medical transcriptionist questions, seeks clarification, verifies the information, and enters it into the report.

Medical transcriptionists must be able to:

  • Use their auditory skills to interpret sounds almost simultaneously with typing;
  • Use word processing software;
  • Use proofreading and editing skills;
  • Use deductive reasoning to convert sounds into meaningful words;
  • Analyze situations and adopt effective courses of action;
  • Type at least 50 words per minute.  Click on one of these sites to take free typing tests:  http://www.typingtest.com or http://www.learn2type.com.
  • Use reference resources;
  • Produce written documents with clearly organized thoughts using proper sentence construction, punctuation, and grammar;
  • Type for long periods of time;
  • Maintain a high level of concentration for extended periods of time.

Experience and Education  

Most medical transcriptionists take courses in medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, word processing, and English grammar. People who have prior medical experience (such as nurses) may just need to take medical transcription courses. It is important not to underestimate what it takes to become successful. Often prospective students call us and are simply focused on working at home and don’t realize what it takes to be successful. Many people overestimate their grammar and vocabulary knowledge. It is not unusual for a student to earn a B or C grade in the medical terminology course and then not do well in the medical transcription course, because he or she has an overall poor vocabulary and weak grammar skills.


Salaries 

According to MTDaily, a medical transcription website, beginning transcriptionists who are paid by the hour earn an average of $10 an hour. After two years of experience, the average hourly rate is $16 an hour. A 1999 study conducted by Hay Management Consultants found that entry-level medical transcriptionists earned from $10 to $16 an hour.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Handbook 2010-11 Edition, medical transcriptionists had median hourly wages of $15.41 in May 2008.

Many medical transcriptionists are paid by the line. This means that if you are a slow typist, you may make $2 an hour or less! Of course, once you become familiar with a physician’s dictation, your speed will increase. Many transcriptionists find that transcribing for physicians who have accents that may be difficult to understand causes them to make much less money than they had anticipated. Keep this in mind when looking for a job.

A survey recently conducted by the Office Technology Department at Howard Community College came up with no conclusive salary information other than recent graduates were earning an average of 12 cents per line. 

Go to www.salary.com, where you can search for salaries for medical transcriptionists in various geographical areas. 


Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI)

The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) was formerly the American Association for Medical Transcription. Go to http://www.ahdionline.org/ to read more about the organization.  Click this link to learn how to become a certified medical transcriptionist.  If you are serious about this career, becoming a member of this organization is worth the fee; this site has a lot of valuable information. As in any field, obtaining certification should increase your salary potential.


MTDAILY.COM

Go to www.mtdaily.com to find information about becoming a medical transcriptionist. 


How to Find a Job

Many people new to this field find it difficult to get their first job. It is important that you look into the local job market before spending money on taking classes. Look over the skills needed and ask yourself honestly if you have some of the skills or if you have the time and ability to learn those skills. 

Many students are interested in this career, because they have heard that it can be a successful home business. While this is often true, it may be difficult getting started in the field. Many medical offices do not advertise but hire transcriptionists through “word of mouth.” You will find that most offices want you to have actual work experience. You will often be told this because the average medical office is not prepared to test you or be able to grade your test. Keep in mind, however, that no one would be transcribing if everyone had to have experience first. Be sure to mention that you have completed courses in medical transcription, anatomy, etc., and ask if you can transcribe a sample tape for them to read over. Often this is enough to get you in the door. 

Many offices do not allow transcriptionists to work at home until they have a chance to see the type of work produced. There are disadvantages to working at home: equipment and expensive reference materials must be purchased and frequently updated. In addition, you must also be a self-starter who does not procrastinate and who likes to work alone. Keep in mind that if you start a home business, you may want to see a tax advisor as you will be doing your own billing, recordkeeping, and taxes; an insurance broker may also be advisable for liability insurance for errors/omissions. Self-employed people are responsible for their own medical/retirement benefits. 

As it is unusual to find medical transcription jobs advertised in the local papers, you must do some research. Go to www.mdhospitals.org to find links to Maryland hospitals.  If you are lucky enough to find a medical records employee willing to talk with you, you might get some useful information on how to gain employment at that hospital.

In addition, here are some links that you might find useful. Remember that job openings change frequently, so it might be a good idea to bookmark these sites so you can check them often.