I have been fortunate to work as a medical transcriptionist since 1993. I often get asked the same questions regarding transcription and therefore, I have decided to write an article to help anyone who is interested in becoming a transcriptionist and how to go about it as well as some of the pros and cons.
To start: The biggest misconception in medical transcription is that you don’t need to go to school. This is completely incorrect. You will need the proper training to become a medical transcriptionist. The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) is our governing body. They have quite a bit of information on their website.
At this link, you will find a list of schools that they recommend. It is wise to chose from one of the accredited schools.
Another misconception is that working from home means you can pick your own hours. I can’t speak for all work-from-home industries but in transcription, you will generally have a set schedule that you have to adhere to. It is no different than getting up and going to work every day with the exception of no rush hour traffic to deal with.
To elaborate on that subject, it is possible that you can find a position as an independent contractor and set your own hours, although highly unlikely.
There can be a wide range of hours that you might have to work as a transcriptionist, even from home. The large, nation-wide companies are referred to as MTSO (medical transcription service organization). These companies never close. Generally, they require you to work one weekend day, meaning every weekend, you will have to work Saturday or Sunday. Their shifts usually run from Tuesday – Saturday or Sunday – Thursday. Another thing to keep in mind is that they are open nights, weekends, and on all holidays. More than likely, you will work several holidays a year. The MTSOs can be located all around the country and generally hire employees all around the country. There is a high likelihood that you will never meet the people you work with and unfortunately, this is pretty much par for the course now as the smaller, local companies have been gobbled up by the big corporations.
However in the event that you do find a position with a local transcription company, there is still the possibility that you might work from home. I currently work for a local transcription company from home myself. It is pretty much the golden goose egg of transcription.
Some more of the cons about being a transcriptionist. It can be very lonely sitting at home all day by yourself with no one else to talk to. The pay can vary. I’ve had good-paying and bad-paying jobs. For a woman who is trying to supplement her family’s income and still take care of the children, it is an amazing opportunity.
What can of skills are required? The most important skills to have as a transcriptionist (your base foundation) would be spelling, typing speed, and ability to use a computer. Everything else you will be taught in school. Medical terminology will be one of your most important subjects to master. If you learn the beginning, ending, and root words and what their meanings are, it will make it a lot easier to spell words that you’ve never heard before by simply breaking them down into their parts. Another important skill is hand-eye coordination.
What exactly does a transcriptionist do? Basically any time you are seen by a healthcare provider, that provider once the visit is finished will pick up a phone and call a transcription service and dictate the chart note, operative report, etc. They speak at a fairly quick pace. This audio file is recorded and a transcriptionist then will listen to the audio file and either type the dictation from scratch or do voice recognition editing. This then becomes the legal document for your visit to that provider. Almost all healthcare providers HATE to do dictation, but they know it is a necessary evil and if they are sued, they would rather have a good, clean, error-free report to go by.
Headphones? Yes, you will wear headphones. These days, you will see all types of headphones, not just the secretary style from the olden days. You’ll see full over the ear, ear buds, wireless headphones, etc.
Foot pedal? You will use a foot pedal that operates almost exactly like a sewing machine’s pedal. This is where having good hand-eye coordination comes into play.
Do I supply my own equipment? More often than not, the company you work for will supply you with a computer and its peripherals. It is possible that some companies will require you to supply your own computer.
In previous years, your collection of terminology and other transcription books was your lifeline. These generally would include the Book of Style, a medical dictionary, and several word books in a variety of specialities. However with the internet, most of us don’t use books anymore and generally just use the internet to search for the term we are needing. Caution: Always, always make sure that the information you are getting off the internet can be verified as being correct. Don’t assume because it’s out there, that it is correct.
I find transcription to be easier now than it has been in years past, which I feel is due to the electronic health record. In the past, you had no access to a patient’s chart, tests, etc. The only thing you had to go off was what the dictator said and that is not always correct. A transcriptionist’s job is not only to transcribe the information but to know if the information is correct. For instance, in years past, a doctor might be dictating some obscure term off of a pathology report. In those days, you would’ve not had access to the pathology report. Now with the implementation of electronic medical records, you can look at the pathology report yourself and determine what word it is that the dictator has so jumbled up. Word of caution, don’t snoop around in a patient’s chart and always be prepared to explain why you were in the patient’s chart.
After you have been a transcriptionist for a while, you will secretly be editing everyone’s grammar and punctuation in your head while they are talking. It happens to all of us!
This is a list of books, websites, etc. that will provide you with the most information. Feel free to post comments below if you have any questions that I can answer for you.
Medical Transcription Resources