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How To Know if Medical Transcription Is Right For You

Updated on September 19, 2012

Online Careers: Medical Transcription - Is It Right For You?

Medical transcription as a career dates back to the 1960's. It was at this point in time that physicians began to document patient medical records in typewritten form rather than hand writing all their charts.

Fast forward to today's computer age where all things are possible. As far as online careers go, medical transcription is a great one with a lot of potential - but is it right for you?

I am one of the dinosaurs of medical transcription as I have been in the business now for almost 40 years. I have seen it evolve from magnetic belts with dictation on them to cassette tapes to digital voice files.

I have also seen the career of medical transcription from every aspect possible; as a medical transcriptionist working in clinics, hospitals in various departments, and in physician offices.

I have also seen it from the perspective of independent contractor, business owner of my own transcription service, and now again as an employee of one of the largest transcription services in the world.

Come with me and let's explore the online career of medical transcription and let's see if it is right for you.

public domain photo - overseas medical transcriptionist
public domain photo - overseas medical transcriptionist | Source

Education and Training for Medical Transcription

Back in my early years, I became a medical transcriptionist while working in a physician office and lucked into it first of all, and second of all, took to it immediately.

Most online careers in medical transcription today, however, require 18 months to 2 years of specialized medical transcription training. The reason for this training becomes obvious once you start to delve into the career of medical transcription.

You not only have to know how to operate machinery (whether it be traditional transcription machines or digital foot pedals hooked into a computer), but you have to be able to perform multiple tasks at the same time.

I call it hand-eye-ear-foot coordination. It is a perplexing thing to some people to have to do all these things at the same time and do it repeatedly for at least 8 hours per day.

In today's world, you also have to be computer savvy and understand basic operations of a computer-based environment for storage of medical records, their confidentiality, and the phrase 'there is no margin for error'.

Much as in accounting, in medical transcription, the goal is to turn out medical records that are free of any errors. Errors can cost patients their lives so the importance of accuracy in medical transcription is the #1 priority.

To be a medical transcriptionist, you must possess above-average skills in terms of anatomy and physiology. You also have to know diseases, symptoms of these diseases, and have a huge fund of knowledge when it comes to medications, laboratory work and diagnostic procedures....not to mention surgical procedures.

You have to know the difference for example between ilium and ileum (the former a bone and the latter a part of the small intestine.

Only through diligent study and actual on-the-job or in-school transcription can a medical transcriptionist perfect his or her skills and become marketable enough to enter the online career of medical transcription and actually make money at it and be successful.

Most transcription today is calculated on a 65-character line and most medical transcription jobs are paid by the 65-character line. This means that if you do not type, you do not earn!

Some companies and facilities still pay by the hour but transcription companies by and large only pay by the line; it is strictly a production-based career. Most often, there are minimums that you must achieve per hour. Some companies do entice the medical transcriptionist by offering incentives for exceeding those minimums.

What Are the Benefits of an Online Career as a Medical Transcriptionist?

Most people who are successful at having an online career of any kind are disciplined and self-starters. People who need constant supervision or motivation to 'get the job done' usually do not do well as medical transcriptionists online.

Perhaps the best reason for being an online medical transcriptionist is that you can work from home. You never have to worry about traffic or wardrobe issues again! If you find the right company and right fit, you can also flex your time or mold your work schedule around your personal life, thus freeing up more time for kids, family and activities.

Most companies today either have transcription in digital file format that the medical transcriptionist can transcribe but many companies are using the newer technology, that of voice recognition. Now the medical transcriptionist has the opportunity to become an editor of voice recognized digital jargon that prints out on the page rather than typing the entire report from scratch. This is a labor-intensive process sometimes especially if there are difficult dictators or people with English as a second language dictating; however, it still cuts down on keyboarding.

You usually can work just about any shift depending on what company or situation you find. Nowadays, medical transcription pretty much runs 24/7 and 365 days per year. Holidays are no exception, weekends likewise. Depending on your schedule and needs, you can work day shifts, afternoon shifts, weekends, and graveyard shifts. It's all about finding the slot that works for you.

Most transcription companies, hospitals and clinics that use online medical transcriptionists have you work on an Internet interface. You log on, do your work, and log out for the day. It is the same as working a 'regular' job only you do it all by telecommuting and are mostly on your own though today, there are many things like Internet meetings, etc.

An online medical transcriptionist will most likely be paid every 2 weeks by direct deposit. Again, no muss, no fuss, and what you type is what you get. Many national firms offer health insurance plans, dental plans and even some like mine offer paid time off.

Medical Transcription Skills and Abilities

If an online career as a medical transcriptionist is what you seek, these are some of the things you must learn and skills you must acquire:

  • Good to above-average typing skills - I would say a must to above-average; since most medical transcription is based on production, if you can't type fast enough or accurately, you won't make any money at it
  • Knowledge of medical terminology - this includes anatomy, physiology, diseases, symptoms of diseases, therapies, surgical procedures and a staggering number of medications
  • Eye-hand-ear-foot coordination - you must be able to listen to a voice file through headphones while playing the voice file with a foot pedal; you must be able to read the text and interpret it on the screen as you are listening and keyboarding at the same time
  • Above-average skills in spelling, grammar, communication and memory. The latter might seem odd but if you do not retain information and spend all of your time researching things over and over, you will find it difficult to do well at medical transcription
  • Ability to follow verbal and written instructions - most often clients give out things called account specifics and these are to followed to the letter. They usually involve 10-30 pages of instructions to be followed for just one institution. Multiply that by several institutions that you may be required to do work for and you can see how important verbal and written instruction skills are!
  • Ability to sort, check, count and verify numbers for accuracy - this enters the realm of accuracy of medical records and the assignation of information to the proper patient. If there is a discrepancy in the patient's medical record number and the wrong name is assigned to the patient's records, this can be a potentially life-threatening situation (for instance if the correct allergies were given to a wrong patient record and they were not present on the correct patient's chart)
  • Organizational skills such as maintaining records of work done and being able to pay attention to minute details
  • Multi-tasker extraordinaire - a medical transcriptionist has to be able to do many things all at the same time all the while drowning out distractions in their environment as well

Curriculum for the Medical Transcriptionist

Skills a medical transcriptionist must have to do their job accurately:

  • Basic to advanced medical terminology - an ongoing process as new information is discovered daily
  • Knowledge of disease processes
  • Knowledge of anatomy and physiology
  • Knowledge of basic computer equipment and dictation equipment - must know how to operate start, stop, speed controls of dictation programming or equipment
  • Ability to type the basic 4 work types - history and physical; consultation; operation and discharge summary; however, there are an incredible number of other reports and specialties to learn as well from EEG reports to x-rays to cardiac catheterizations as a few examples
  • Knowledge of and application of grammar, punctuation and capitalization
  • Ability to research on the Internet (as in the example of physician names, hospital names, city names, new drugs, etc)
  • Discipline - medical transcription is a very hard job that can be extremely tedious; it involves sitting for great lengths of time, thus the need for self-discipline and being able to tune out extraneous environments

Medical Transcription Explained

Online Careers: Medical Transcription Is It Right For You?

As you can see, an online career as a medical transcriptionist can be very promising if it is a good fit for someone.

There are also levels of medical transcription and different certifications that you can acquire through schooling and testing.

On another day, we'll take a look at the recommended schools for accreditation as a medical transcriptionist recommended by ADHI (the Association for Healthcare Documentation, formerly the American Association of Medical Transcription).

There are schools to attend on-compass and there are many online schools as well to obtain a degree from in medical transcription.  There are also many that offer several different types of funding.

If you're the kind of person who is a natural born typist and who has superior English and grammar skills and who also is an above-average learner, an online career in medical transcription might just be right for you.

Over the years, I have counseled many people starting out and the main word of advice that I can give from the heart is that nothing ever comes to us without a ton of hard work. Medical transcription is just the same way. In order to become any good at it, you have to do the time and you have to put in the hours to accrue your knowledge base.

It can be a process that seems like it takes forever but as in most things, success at medical transcription is worth the time put into it and if you are good at it, you will be indispensable no matter what the industry does down the road.

The Future of Medical Transcription


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