Understanding Your Medical Transcription Bill: Line Counts, Charges, Fees, And More

The global transcription market is projected to reach over $15 billion by 2027, reflecting the growing demand for accurate and efficient audio-to-text conversion. That growth is supported by trust between the client and the provider—and transparency in billing and pricing is one of the hallmark traits of a reliable medical transcription service provider. But how can a client know that a provider is transparent with their pricing?

In this article, you’ll learn how:

  • Transcription services have different types of billing methods. 
  • Billing per line is the industry standard for medical transcription. One line is defined as 65 characters including spaces. 
  • Factors such as turnaround times, audio quality, number of speakers, and others can affect transcription pricing. 

Different Types of Medical Transcription Billing Structures

There are several different ways transcription companies calculate how much to charge. We’ll start with the most common two, then discuss the others you might encounter. 

Charging By Line

Charging by line is, as mentioned before, is charging a client per predetermined line in a completed transcript. This is the industry standard for medical transcription. 

A standard medical transcription line, as defined by the Association for Healthcare Documentation or AHDI, is 65 characters, including spaces and punctuation. To bill clients, a medical transcription company will take a completed transcript, run a character count including spaces, and divide that by 65 to get the total number of lines. 

Line-based billing has a few advantages. It can adapt to varying transcript lengths, avoiding overcharging or undercharging. Transcriptionists are also assured that they are being paid for their work. 

Additionally, this promotes fast turnaround times as transcription providers can earn more if they can finish lines faster. Meanwhile, clients don’t have to worry about getting charged extra for extended work timeframes, as they are assured that every transcript they receive is billed fairly. 

Here are more features and advantages of per-line billing. 

Clarity & StandardizationA shared understanding of “line” with the 65-character guideline.
Quantifiable MeasurementEasy-to-understand metric for billing and transparent communication.
Ease of CalculationStraightforward process for efficient billing procedures.
Accurate Cost EstimationPredictable budgeting and improved financial planning for clients.
Flexibility in Content LengthFair billing for all transcript lengths and payment for actual content.
Incentive for EfficiencyEncourages concise transcription and potential for higher volume production.
Customizable ServicesClients choose the desired detail level, influencing line count and final price.

Charging By Audio Minute

Charging by the audio minute uses the original recordings to measure how much the client should be charged. This is another standard for transcription services, but they mostly apply to general, law enforcement, legal, and academic transcription. 

With this arrangement, transcription providers can give quotes easily, and customers are assured that they are paying for the audio hour, not the amount of time it takes to transcribe their recordings. To compensate for this, some providers may use recording tiers or types. This may depend on several factors, like the number of speakers, audio quality, etc, which we will tackle later. 

Per-minute billing has a few other features and benefits:

Fairness in BillingPay only for actual transcribed content, promoting cost-effectiveness.
Flexibility for Audio QualityAccommodates variations in difficulty based on audio clarity.
Efficiency IncentiveRewards fast and accurate transcription, not just file duration.
Accurate Cost EstimationPredictable costs based on relevant spoken content.
Transparent BillingPay for the value received, fostering trust and clarity.

Other Charging Methods

Here are other, less common billing methods for transcription work. 

Per Word Billing

This type of billing is based on the total number of words transcribed. It is difficult to estimate per-word charging, and the structure can lead to potentially higher bills. A conversation between two Americans can often reach 150 words per minute of audio. That means a provider charging $0.03 per word will bill clients $4.50 per audio minute for a typical conversation. 

Moreover, some providers charge upwards of $0.10 per word, especially with translation services. We’ve spoken to some clients who were unilaterally ripped off by providers charging as high as $0.13 per word, or approximately $19.50 per audio minute. 

Per Hour Billing

Hourly billing is based on the time spent producing the completed transcript, including listening to recordings, transcribing, editing, and proofreading. This type of billing can be more expensive the more complex the transcription task is.

Additionally, per-hour billing doesn’t exactly promote efficiency. Providers have no incentive to finish projects quickly, which can increase the total transcription cost for the client.

Per Keystroke

Keystroke medical transcription billing is calculated by counting every press of the button a transcriber makes during transcription. This is a finer billing method compared to per word or line.

However, the provider may have a different definition of “keystroke” than the client. For example, are caps lock or shift included? Additionally, this type of billing requires specialized software, which can increase the total cost for the client. 

Flat Rate Billing

For this transcription type, a fixed fee is charged for a specific amount of work or services. For example, a provider can charge $XX for X completed transcripts. This simplified billing method may look more affordable and is better for simple transcription projects. 

Unfortunately, this simplicity is also a problem. Being inflexible, the method may cause overcharging or undercharging, depending on the volume of work, and may not be great for quick turnaround times. 

Subscription Billing

With subscriptions, clients pay a recurring fee at regular intervals, such as monthly or annually, for a specified amount of transcription services. Subscriptions may include a certain number of lines, words, or hours, depending on what is indicated in the service terms or agreement.

Like flat rates, medical transcription subscription billing services may be under or over-utilized, which makes it a poor choice for the provider and client. 

Factors That Affect Medical Transcription Bills

Transcription costs depend on several factors. 

The first is the number of speakers on the recording. The cost typically goes up the more speakers there are, as the transcriptionist must identify and label each speaker on the audio, making the transcription process much longer.

Poor audio quality is another factor. This means that the recording is difficult to interpret. This can be for many reasons: speakers with heavy accents, who mumble, speak in low voices, speak unclearly, or the file has heavy background noise. Issues with the recording device or file compression can also affect quality. 

Subject matter can also affect transcription pricing. This refers to difficult recordings that require more in-depth research. Like a recording with lots of scientific terminology, such files are usually charged a higher rate. 

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 turnaround time (TAT) also affects the price. Companies often use a tiered pricing system for different turnaround times. For example, a 24 – 48 hour TAT may cost $5.00 a minute, a 48-72 hour cost $4.50 a minute, and a 4 – 5 day TAT may cost $4.00 a minute. 

Again, the definition of each tier and price varies by company, and businesses need to evaluate what turn-around time they need to assess their transcription pricing properly.

Potential Issues With Medical Transcription Billing

As mentioned, per-line billing is the standard for medical transcription. However, despite having a line defined as 65 characters, the “lines” can still be blurry. 

First off, some providers may not adopt the typical 65-character limit. Worse yet, they might not be upfront about adopting a different gross character count. 

Additionally, the provider may not have a minimum number of characters to constitute a line, which means even a line with a single character or a blank line itself may be charged. This can be more evident in recordings with extended pauses or includes sections that don’t require transcription, depending on format or template requirements. 

And lastly, since transcription service providers earn more per line, they might prioritize getting more and more lines out at the cost of accuracy. These companies charge more or less the same amount for subpar transcripts. 

Outsourcing Medical Transcription To Ditto Is Your Best Bet

We know that transparency in billing practices is key to client satisfaction. That’s why Ditto’s prices consider all factors and potential issues to provide medical institutions and practitioners with the clearest pricing structure. Here is the breakdown for our medical transcription services. 

Medical transcription pricing options according to turnaround times

  • 7 cents per line for 72-hour turnaround times
  • 10 cents per line for standard 24-hour TAT
  • 14 cents per line for STAT files (4-hour turnaround time)

EHR and EMR transcription pricing

  • Flat rates between $0.25 and $3.00 per report
  • We can also do the per-line rates listed above if there is a line counter within your EHR or EMR

LIS and PACs transcription pricing

  • Flat rates between $0.25 and $3.00 per report
  • We can also do the per-line rates listed above if there is a line counter within your LIS or PACs system

Our pricing levels come with our guaranteed 99% accuracy, secure transcription platform for all medical records, extensive medical knowledge, industry-leading customer service, and unparalleled customizability for quality transcripts. 

No need to shop around and risk getting a high medical transcription bill for low-quality service when you already have the most reliable provider in the industry right at your fingertips. 

Ditto Transcripts is a HIPAA-compliant Denver, Colorado-based transcription services company that provides fast, accurate, and affordable transcripts for individuals and companies of all sizes. Call (720) 287-3710 today for a free quote, and ask about our free five-day trial.

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