Medical Transcription 101

As someone who works as a medical transcriptionist, I often get asked what my work is all about. For me, it’s a career that gives me immense flexibility and lets me continue my long love affair with medicine. I was convinced I’d one day become a doctor ever since I was in Pre-K, but the sight of blood one fine day changed my mind forever—though it didn’t dim my fascination with medicine! Medical transcription is perfect for anyone who wants to be a part of the healthcare industry without toiling away in med school for half a dozen years.

So here’s the lowdown on how to become a medical transcriptionist (MT), and practically everything else you need to know about this profession.

An Overview of the Medical Transcription Process

What exactly does an MT do? When a patient leaves a doctor’s office, the doctor, with the help of voice-recording software, records the details of the meeting including the patient’s physical examination and medical problems, any lab and diagnostic tests that were requested or their results, the diagnosis, the plan of treatment and instructions given to the patient. The MT listens to this audio file and transcribes it into a report or record in the required format.

Training/Educational Requirements

In order to become an MT, you would ideally complete an associate degree or enroll in a diploma program right after high school. Many vocational schools and colleges offer training in medical transcription and some, such as CareerStep, also offer online courses that you can complete in as little as four months! Coursework for medical transcription includes subjects such as anatomy, pathophysiology, pharmacology, medical terminology, and English grammar and punctuation.

You can also choose to obtain certification, although it’s not mandatory. But certification proves your mettle and shows a potential employer your willingness to go the extra mile and your dedication toward your calling. Certifications are maintained by the AHDI (Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity) and are known as RMT (Registered Medical Transcriptionist) and CMT (Certified Medical Transcriptionist). Fresh graduates with little or no experience under their belt can take the RMT exam, whereas the CMT exam is for experienced MTs who have worked in a medical specialty such as acute care.

Required Skill Set and Personal Qualities

To be really good at what they do, MTs must possess:

  • Attention to detail: Voice recordings can be replete with inconsistencies. Being detail-oriented and able to identify inaccuracies is a must so that the transcribed reports are free from errors.
  • Excellent command over English: MTs must be fluent in English and proficient in the use of correct grammar, capitalization and punctuation rules.
  • Typing speed: This is very important. You need to have a really good speed because that’s what you’ll be doing—typing, typing, and then typing some more!
  • Computer skills: You should know how to operate a computer and possess basic knowledge of word-processing software.
  • An ear for accents: Unique to this profession, an MT must have good listening skills. In Canada, doctors come from all cultures and often have accents. Understanding each word correctly while omitting unnecessary text is very important.

Job Duties of an MT

  • MTs listen to the voice recording of a doctor or nurse and then transcribe it into referral letters, diagnostic test results and other documents as necessary. These documents eventually form part of the patient’s medical record. The transcription must be free from spelling errors, grammatical and punctuation mistakes.
  • He or she may consult medical terms and procedures to verify for inconsistencies.
  • MTs may have to follow up with the doctor if they find any discrepancies within the voice recordings.
  • They must keep a log of all the transcribed reports, perform quality checks on them and submit them to the doctor for approval.
  • The transcribed reports must comply with legal policies and adhere to patient confidentiality.

Typical Work Environment

MTs usually work in hospitals and doctors’ offices. Or they can work in offices for corporations that provide transcription services for hospitals, medical centres, and healthcare establishments. MTs can also telecommute, and can either be self-employed as independent contractors or working from home for a firm or a doctor’s office.

Job Outlook/Pay Rate

According to statistics, the job outlook for medical transcription is bright and there’s a huge potential for growth in this career. The compensation is fairly high: $21 an hour is the median wage, so if you’re really good at what you do and have enough experience, you can earn as much as $27.50 an hour. Not bad, not bad at all!

Do you think this is the type of job for you? Medical transcription doesn’t require extensive training and it could be the ideal choice, especially if you are looking to work from home. If you’re truly interested in making this your career choice, look for reputed schools with good training programs that offer on-the-job training, which could pave the way for a successful career path for you in the healthcare industry. Good luck!

Tiara Wells

Tiara Wells is a successful African-American medical transcriptionist who has been living in Canada with her husband for the past six years. Since her accident in 2010 she refused to be discouraged by her disability and continued to seek career options that allow her to work from home. She now heads a team of five medical transcriptionists and enjoys writing in her spare time. Her hobbies include cooking, baking, knitting and spending quality time with her husband.

One Response to “Medical Transcription 101”

  1. Cyndi Merrill

    Hi, Thanks so much for this..I am looking into a career in medical transcription, and this affirmed for me that it is absolutely what I want to do. Thanks so much for the info!


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