Transcription bill rates can vary greatly based on what transcription company you choose. And there is a great variety among transcription companies in how they charge customers. So how do transcription companies calculate their pricing, and what should a business look for when comparing transcription prices?
Different billing methods
There are several different ways transcription companies calculate how much to charge, including by the line, page, by audio minute or hour, or by a flat fee.
The two most common methods for transcription pricing are by line or by audio minute.
Charging by the line is the standard practice in the medical transcription industry.
A standard medical transcription “line” is 65 characters including spaces and punctuation (this is what the Association for Healthcare Documentation (AHDI) defines as a standard line.) When a medical transcription company charges by line, they should normally take the total number of characters and spaces in a document, divide that by 65 to get the number of lines a document has.
Some medical transcription companies will say they are charging by the line, and their version of a line is anything that has something on it or even a blank line. Make sure you speak with the transcription company about this and ask for examples of your reports and how much they would cost to make sure they are billing your medical practice fairly.
Charging by the page is the standard for court reporters in the legal transcription industry.
Many transcription companies also charge by audio minute. The advantage of billing like this is that the customer knows what they are being charged in advance. So if a recording is 60 minutes long, the customer is billed a flat rate for transcribing 60 minutes of audio.
Although not as common, some companies also charge a flat rate for all transcription services. More like a monthly subscription or yearly fee, regardless of usage. This may be a good way to go for companies who have a high volume of general transcription work (this method is mostly used for general transcription and not any specialized transcription such as legal or financial.)
Transcription billing variables
Transcription cost can also depend on the number of speakers on a recording, the quality of audio, the difficulty of the subject matter or the requested turn-around time.
The cost typically goes up the more speakers there are, as the transcriptionist must identify and label each individual speaker on the audio, making the transcription process much longer.
“Poor audio quality” means that the recording is difficult to interpret. This can be for many reasons: speakers with heavy accents, speakers that mumble, speak in low voices or speak unclearly or having background noise or a difficult to comprehend recording. Usually, the more difficult the audio quality the higher the cost to transcribe.
Subject matter that is difficult or requires more in-depth research also is usually charged a higher rate – for instance, a recording with lots of scientific terminology. This is because the transcriptionist needs to either be an expert in that specific field, which usually means they command a higher rate, or that a transcriptionist must do research to ensure the accuracy of the transcription.
The requested turn-around time also affects the price. Most often companies use a tiered pricing system based on the requested turn-around time (TAT.)
For example, 24 – 48 hour TAT at $5.00 a minute, 48-72 hour TAT at $4.50 a minute, 4 – 5 day TAT at $4.00 a minute, etc. Again, the definition of each tier and the price for each varies by company, and businesses need to evaluate what turn-around time they need to properly assess their transcription pricing.
Other things transcription companies may or may not charge for are: Quality Assurance (QA,) or listening to the recording while checking the accuracy of a document already produced, initial set up, use of pre-defined templates, use of smart phone apps for dictation, inserting time stamps or codes into a transcription, correcting grammar or other editing, verbatim transcription (typing ums, ahs, likes or similar “thinking noises,”) or for the faxing or emailing of documents. These should all be discussed before a business chooses a transcription company.
Businesses also need to be aware of other, not as common billing practices transcription companies can use that affects the price as well.
For instance, if charging by line, some companies change the definition of a line to a different number of characters with spaces (say, 50 instead of 65,) or some companies charge per keystroke (which means you will be charged for capitalization, bolding, underlining, etc. – anytime the transcriptionist presses a separate key.)
Some companies may charge by the word. Some companies may offer transcription services for a flat fee, but only up to a certain number of files or audio minutes.
Companies can also limit the hours they receive files – say, a business requests 24 hour turn-around time on their document, but sends it to the transcription company after their defined business hours – for instance, 5 p.m. That means the “clock” on the turn-around time will not begin until business hours resume – say 8 a.m., meaning the document will be returned by 8 a.m. the following day.
This can increase the actual turn-around time, or increase the cost for a business if they need a document sooner (for instance, if they really needed the document done by 5 p.m. that same day they would be charged for 9 hour turn-around time instead of 24 hour turn-around time.)
The bottom line is that businesses looking to hire a transcription services company (or evaluate their current service) need to assess the company’s total transcription costs. Any good transcription company will be transparent about their transcription billing practices and give a free quote for the requested service before starting the work.
Ditto Transcripts is a Denver, Colorado-based transcription company that provides fast, accurate and affordable transcription services for individuals and companies of all sizes. Call (720) 287-3710 today for a free quote, and ask about our free five-day trial.