Every day doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers are saving lives. They work on improving their patient’s conditions, doing rounds, and advancing their learnings to update their techniques as well as their knowledge on the tools and equipment they use.
But even they need help as well in ensuring they have accurate health reports. This is where medical transcriptionists come in.
Medical transcriptionists work closely – or remotely – with healthcare workers to provide the utmost support for them and their patients.
Becoming a medical transcriptionist at home or through business process outsourcing (BPO) companies can also be a good work opportunity for those with great typing skills, sharp focus, and medical knowledge. This function provides good pay, especially for experienced individuals at home.
Learn all about becoming a medical transcriptionist, the qualifications you need, and the institutions that accept them in this article.
What does a medical transcriptionist do?
Also known as a healthcare documentation specialist, a medical transcriptionist is tasked to listen to medical audio and convert them into document files. They can either transfer data directly from the audio file or specialized text-to-speech software.
With the availability of online tools today, medical transcriptionists use text-to-speech software to easily transcribe their audio. After rendering, they will then verify and review the document for errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling, then collate their data to create reports.
Aside from this, medical transcriptionists are also responsible for the following duties:
- Listen to audio dictation
- Interpret medical data and describe the patient background
- Translate medical jargon into long-form
- Write and proofread medical reports from transcriptions
- Submit medical reports for approval
- Follow confidentiality guidelines
The average salary of a medical transcriptionist
A medical transcriptionist’s average salary may vary depending on their location, experience, and skillset.
In the United States, an average transcriptionist earns a median annual wage of US$35,270. They can earn up to US$37 per hour depending on the specialty. Medical transcriptionists are usually hired in the following:
- Medical and diagnostic laboratories
- Doctor’s offices
- Specialized clinics
- Administrative offices
Remote and outsourced workers, meanwhile, can earn as much as US$12 per hour or at least US$24,000 per year.
Becoming a medical transcriptionist
Qualified applicants can become medical transcriptionists from the comforts of their homes or through formal education. However, it takes training and practice to become a professional in this position.
To become a professional medical transcriptionist, applicants must meet the following requirements:
Applicants must have at least a General Education Diploma (GED) or high school diploma to become a medical transcriptionist. Although most companies require them to undergo additional training, whether through a community college, distance-learning program, or vocational institution.
Completing at least one or a two-year certificate or associate degree is the best way to qualify for jobs.
Online and offline medical transcriptionists today are either self-taught through online courses or have formal education.
Applicants with formal education completed several courses including anatomy, medical terminology, grammar and punctuation, and medical-legal issues. Others take on-the-job training with direct supervision, depending on their institution’s offering.
On the other hand, those who are self-taught improve their skills over time. But they might seek internships first to gain experience before applying.
Most locations in the United States require certifications before a medical transcriptionist can work. The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) provides two certifications: registered medical transcriptionist (RMT) and certified medical transcriptionist (CMT).
The most basic of the two, RMT, is given for individuals who recently graduated from formal training or have less than two years of work experience. Single-specialty transcriptionists are also required to have this certification.
CMT, meanwhile, is given to individuals with existing RMT certification or at least two years of work experience. To get this, applicants must have years of experience in transcribing acute medical cases or multi-specialty transcriptions.
As with any other certifications, applicants must pass the national exams to become licensed RMT and CMT. Both licenses require continuous education and recertification every few years as well.
Depending on the health institution, medical transcriptionists use a handy audio device in playing files. This includes audio recorders, MP3 players, or cassette tapes. Though nowadays, most of them already use digital files transferred through the cloud or a hard drive.
With this, applicants must have the following:
Laptop or desktop
Having a laptop or desktop is vital for online medical transcriptionists, especially for audio playback and document processing.
Word processing software
Applicants can use web applications such as Google workspace for processing documents. However, it’s best to have an offline document software like Microsoft Word when dealing with highly sensitive transcriptions.
Professional medical transcriptionists save time and effort in audio playback by utilizing foot pedals instead of mouse clicks.
It’s best to have a medical dictionary handy when transcribing. This helps in looking up terms that are difficult to spell or are new to them.
Medical institutions usually provide or indicate their preferred transcription software for playing audio depending on their medical field, assigned doctors, and preferred file format.
Transcriptionists should invest in a good quality headset. This is most helpful when the doctor or nurse speaks fast or mumbles at times.
Lastly, both formal schooling and self-paced learning develop the following skills medical transcriptionists need at work.
Medical transcriptionists should be comfortable in using the computer and word processing software. They should be knowledgeable in basic document formatting and troubleshooting in case anything goes wrong with their document.
Medical transcriptionists normally have a typing speed of at least 65 words per minute with minimal to zero errors. Typing speed is crucial in capturing data quickly and accurately.
They need to have ample medical knowledge to interpret and translate terminologies, abbreviations, and jargon.
Most importantly, a good medical transcriptionist is knowledgeable in grammar, spelling, and syntax.
Attention to detail
A small mistake can cause a great impact in a medical setting. This is why medical professionals pay careful attention to each transcribed audio and written report they get.
A good medical transcriptionist also listens closely to the dictation of the healthcare professional on record to convey the intended meaning of the medical report.
Written reports must be done quickly to meet specific deadlines. Medical transcriptionists should know how to manage their schedules and be able to work under short deadlines when needed.
Ability to focus
Medical transcriptionists work on volumes of audio transcriptions and reports daily. They should be able to focus on their current tasks to finish their reports on time.
How to become a medical transcriptionist
Being a medical transcriptionist requires dedication, effort, and continuous learning to develop the skills and qualities needed for this position. Here are some steps to become a qualified medical transcriptionist.
Earn a degree
The best way to get this role is to take higher education and earn a certificate or an associate degree. Everyone can take higher learning programs online or in-person through universities, community colleges, and vocational schools.
Certifications are optional but highly recommended in the medical field. It guarantees employers and institutions that the individual is skilled and fully qualified for the role.
There are a lot of typing and listening practices available online to help an individual hone their skills and increase their accuracy.
It pays to gain experience outside formal training and before the real work. Consider taking internships in medical institutions and doctors’ offices to get a jumpstart in working as a medical transcriptionist.
Where to find medical transcription jobs
Companies and medical institutions hire medical transcriptionists. They offer both in-house and remote positions for the role, especially since this can now be done online using remote work tools and services.
Medical transcriptionists can find available jobs through the following:
Local health facilities
Medical transcriptionists mostly work at local health facilities, particularly in hospitals and physicians’ offices. They provide help in interpreting medical data directly from doctor’s audio dictations and formulate written reports in hard copies. This requires them to work closely with doctors or healthcare providers within the facility.
Offshore health institutions
Offshore health institutions engage with medical transcriptionists through freelancing. Usually hired on a per-project basis, employers will send the audio files to the medical transcriptionists to work on within a specific timeline.
Freelance transcriptionists are sometimes considered self-employed since they are not connected to a specific health institution.
Outsourcing companies also hire medical transcriptionists for their local and offshore clients. A medical company delegates projects such as transcription and support to an outsourcing partner. The BPO company will then take care of hiring a team that will work on these projects for a certain period of time.
Through outsourcing, medical transcriptionists are considered to be employees of the medical company. Though, the outsourcing partner will take care of their employment needs including equipment, salaries, benefits, and training.