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Online Medical Transcription Courses-Tips for Choosing the Right Program

Updated on November 17, 2011

If you have decided that medical transcription is the career for you, you are probably reviewing a multitude of medical transcription programs that are available online and are wondering which one to choose.

You have probably noticed the cost of tuition for medical transcription courses varies from as little as $900. to as much as $8000.-$9000. Many programs for medical transcription offer payment plans. Some payment plans don’t charge interest and some do. Some medical transcription programs are self-paced, while others are more structured. The course-work varies. Some medical transcription programs are extensive and include in its curriculum basic keyboarding and Microsoft Office courses, while others only administer a test to determine proficiency. Sometimes an abundance of subjects and textbooks are included in the curriculum and sometimes, as I found, only one (and didn’t even provide me with the actual textbook name). So, how are you supposed to choose between all the different programs that are available for medical transcription?

photo courtesy of john_a_ward; Flickr
photo courtesy of john_a_ward; Flickr

I am going to provide a basic checklist to assist you in determining if an online program is more interested in obtaining your money than it is in training you to be a qualified medical transcriptionist along with a brief overview of different program curriculums offered by different medical transcription programs.


Basic Program Checklist:

Be leery of a program that states you will be certified or registered after the completion of a course. Passing an exam administered by Prometric testing centers, located in over 200 cities in the US and Canada, is the only way to obtain medical transcription certification and/or registration. Although it is not required to obtain employment, obtaining the credential indicates that you are proficient in medical transcription.

Before you enroll, find out about the payment methods available and refund policy. If you pay the entire tuition up-front and decide two months later that medical transcription is not for you, will they refund your money? Do they have any non-refundable fees?

Find out how the school handles student questions. Do they have online instructors? Are the online instructors medical transcriptionists? What is the procedure for contacting them, and what is the expected response time?

Curriculum:

As I indicated, the curriculum varies with different schools. Some online medical transcription programs have extremely limited curriculum, while others are extremely comprehensive.

If you have no experience with Microsoft Office, namely Word, are unable to type over 40 wpm, and are unfamiliar with tab use and the function keys, you should consider enrolling in a medical transcription course that includes basic keyboarding and Microsoft Office courses.

The medical transcription courses that include these subjects are much more costly. You may want to look for ROP courses in your area or even enroll in a class at a community college, not only to reduce costs, but also to ensure that you and a keyboard will get along well before you spend thousands of dollars in tuition and supplies.

If, on the other hand, you are proficient in Word and are able to type at or above 40 wpm, the programs that include these courses might be a waste of time and money. Some programs will allow you to test out of the subjects but require a test-out fee, sometimes as much as $150.for each subject or course that you wish to test-out.

On the flip side, some online programs, usually the ones indicating it will take 3-6 months to complete the course and are extremely inexpensive, focus solely on transcription and typing speed, without any other coursework. If you are thinking about enrolling in one of these programs, you might want to reconsider.

Being a medical transcriptionist requires more than just speedy fingers. A medical transcriptionist must have knowledge of medical terminology, be familiar with anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, diseases and, of course, possess excellent knowledge of grammar, punctuation and spelling. Legal aspects of patient privacy and HIPAA compliance are essential elements, as medical transcriptionists often work at home.

Additionally, medical-speak is practically another language. For example, generic drugs are not capitalized, while brand name drugs are capitalized. Some surgeries are capitalized, because the surgery includes the name of the physician that designed the procedure, while other surgeries are not capitalized. A reputable, legitimate online medical transcription program should include in its curriculum the above areas of study.

A reasonable cost for an online medical transcription course that includes the above in the curriculum starts at around $3500. You should expect that the course will take at least nine months to complete.

Lastly, many online medical transcription programs require some sort of pre-enrollment spelling test, online typing test, or other transcription-related test to determine if medical transcription is a job match for you. Some schools might charge a fee for the test and some may not.

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