What Does It Take To Become A Medical Transcriptionist?

Are you interested in a medical transcriptionist career? I don’t blame you; the medical field always needs skilled professionals who can transcribe accurately and efficiently. In addition to competitive salaries, medical transcription offers many perks. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about being a medical transcriptionist and what it takes to thrive in the field. 

What Is A Medical Transcriptionist?

A medical transcriptionist converts doctors’ and other medical workers’ spoken words or recorded audio or video into digital or written reports and transcripts. These transcripts are usually uploaded to EHRs/EMRs and used for hospital and clinic operations, becoming essential references for doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. Despite sounding simple — “It’s just writing down what doctors say,” some might say —medical transcription is a vital and important function to ensure overall patient care and wellness. 

Medical transcriptionists can work directly in hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, or for transcription companies. They use specialized transcribing equipment that allows them to control the playback of a recording with foot controls while typing the document. They are also trained to use the proper templates to format the different types of medical documentation, like history and physical exams, operative reports, consultations, discharge summaries, diagnostic test results, referral letters, chart notes, x-ray notes, and more.

Medical transcriptionists also translate what the doctor says, making it readable and consistent—typing out spoken abbreviations or medical terms in regular English, formatting the document so that it is grammatically correct and makes sense without changing the meaning of the recording, and checking for inconsistencies in the report. They do all this while following the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other patient confidentiality guidelines or requirements.

How to Become A Medical Transcriptionist?

Transcription jobs usually don’t require certification. Anyone with a high school diploma or GED can apply if they present relevant skills. However, medical transcriptionists and medical scribes may have higher requirements. There are several ways to become a medical transcriptionist: work experience, education, certification, or a combination.

Work experience is primarily gained through medical training in different careers. For example, nurses, secretaries, and doctor’s assistants can become medical transcriptionists. Experience in these jobs translates well to medical transcription, especially as they’re more familiar with medical terminology. They’re also more familiar with how a medical office or clinic works or how to handle medical documents like medical office procedures, doctor’s notes, discharge summaries, medical billing and coding, and patient health records. They also have previous access to and can use electronic health records (EHR) and medical records (EMR). 

Medical transcriptionists can also go to school to learn the skills as well. Many educational institutions, including vocational colleges, community colleges, and distance or online programs, also cater to a medical transcription certification. Future medical transcriptionists can enroll in a medical transcription program of their choice. They learn medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, diagnostic procedures, treatment assessments, and proper writing and grammar at school. They also learn to avoid legal issues while doing their job and follow medical documentation protection standards. Once students complete the medical transcriptionist training, they are awarded a certificate or diploma. 

Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS) Certification

The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity or AHDI (formerly the American Association for Medical Transcription) also offers two options for medical transcription certifications: a Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT) certificate and a Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT) certificate. 

Both certifications for medical transcriptionists require them to pass several tests, one of which is the Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS) certification exam. To keep their certification, they must either re-test or pass a re-credentialing course every three years. The CMT is the highest certificate a medical transcriptionist can earn as it requires the most education and work experience. Once certified, they can apply as freelancers or as part of a medical transcription service provider and request higher annual salaries.

What Skills Do I Need Aside From Work Experience And Certification?

Experience and training are great, but they should always be complemented with the usual skills required to transcribe audio. Here are the skills a medical transcriptionists must have:

  • Active Listening Skills: Although the responsibilities of medical transcriptionists and scribes can change depending on healthcare provider or employer requirements, their primary function is to convert audio to text. This fundamental skill helps the transcriber to work faster with fewer errors. 
  • Typing Skills: Transcriptionists must often reach 40-60 words per minute (WPM). Some typists can reach up to 100 WPM.
  • Accuracy and Attention to Detail: Being fast is excellent, but it shouldn’t end there. Transcriptionists must be fast and accurate since medical transcription often deals with sensitive and minute details that can negatively affect a patient’s health if transcribed incorrectly. Mishearing dosage, omitting important words, and misidentifying patients in transcripts have happened before. Aside from that, incorrect transcripts can expose healthcare providers and transcription companies to serious legal action.
  • Research Skills: Just like doctors, though not to the same degree, medical transcriptionists need to keep up with the latest developments in the healthcare field. They also must be able to research new terms and techniques and utilize their working knowledge in the medical field to contextualize recordings correctly. 
  • Time Management: Transcribers often work with strict deadlines, and the work-from-home setup can interfere. Employing discipline and effective time management can help you succeed in the business.
  • Focus and Specialization: Transcriptionists can specialize in different fields, just as doctors work in different practices. Specialization allows transcriptionists to transcribe specific content and recordings effectively. 
  • Strong Morals and Ethics: Medical transcriptionists are exposed to sensitive information daily. These details can include personally identifiable patient data, medical histories, medications prescribed, medico-legal correspondences, and even patient payment information. A transcriber with strong ethics will not be tempted to take advantage of such access. 

Do Medical Transcriptionists Work From Home?

Yes. The most evident allure of medical transcriptionist jobs, or any transcription job for that matter, is that they may work anywhere they want. Audio or video recordings that need to be transcribed can be sent via emails or online portals. Sometimes, doctors need medical scribes or transcriptionists to be with them while seeing patients, which is easily done through phone calls. 

How Much Is The Typical Medical Transcriptionist Salary?

The median annual salary for a medical transcriptionist is around $34,730 per annum. Candidates with a strong skill set, relevant medical transcription training and experience, and RHDS certifications can earn significantly higher. In my experience, expert medical transcriptionists are paid up to $51,280 a year and more. 

Other Benefits of Medical Transcriptionists

While working from home and a competitive salary are the main benefits of being an online medical transcriptionist, they can enjoy a few more perks. Here are some of them: 

High Demand

The medical transcription field grows alongside the healthcare industry—and the latter shows no signs of stopping. Massive strides in the medical field, like improved equipment manufacture, expanded clinical and hospital operations, and numerous pharmaceutical breakthroughs, will generate greater demands for medical providers and, thus, medical transcription. Despite that, there are more conservative estimates. 

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for the medical transcription field is expected to decrease by 4% over the next decade. This slight decline in medical transcription jobs might be attributed to the development of speech recognition software. However, over 8,100 job openings for medical scribes and transcriptionists are expected annually from 2023 to 2032. 

Better Work-Life Balance

Working from home is not for everyone. That said, transcribers who prefer this arrangement and can establish a clear and productive work routine will thrive in such work environments. The remote nature of medical transcription allows for more flexibility and better control over your schedule, allowing them to take care of other life commitments such as family, pets, children, etc., without sacrificing productivity. 

Career Advancement

Medical transcriptionist positions require a lot of continuous training and development; those skills won’t go to waste. As mentioned earlier, transcriptionists can specialize in a particular area of medicine, such as cardiology or oncology or acute care. They can also shoot for management and supervisory roles, quality assurance positions, or even transition to a new career in related healthcare roles.

Work With Us As A Medical Transcriptionist

Do you think you have what it takes to be a medical transcriptionist? Do you want to be an independent contractor or apply for an employment position? Ditto Transcripts is always on the lookout for skilled transcribers. Click Work For Us above and start your application process!

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

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