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Medical Transcriptionist Schools and Training Programs

Formal training in medical transcription can prepare you for a career in the fast-growing health care industry. Medical transcriptionists may be able to work from home, making it a flexible career choice.

Medical Transcriptionist Careers

Medical transcriptionists create medical reports and correspondence by listening to recordings that are dictated by doctors and other members of the health care team, and transcribing them into computer format. They are sometimes known as medical stenographers, or medical transcribers.

Typical documents and reports created by medical transcriptionists include patient history and physical examination reports, operating room reports, and autopsy reports. The new Health Information Portability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) requires that patient medical information is transcribed and available to other medical facilities.

Because of the highly technical information contained in this material, and the need for accuracy, transcribers must be familiar with medical terminology and procedures. They will frequently use printed and electronic reference materials to ensure accuracy.

In some cases, a transcriptionist may notice what appears to be incorrect information in a medical report and check it with the dictating physician. This verification procedure helps ensure the accuracy of patient records, and can prevent mistakes in treatment. The finished document is also reviewed by the healthcare professional who dictated the text.

Most medical transcriptionists work in hospitals or clinics, although a growing number work from home, or at centralized offices serving many doctors. They may be employees of the facility or work for subcontractors. If employed in a clinic, transcribers may perform additional administrative work, such as insurance coding and billing, or scheduling appointments. A standard 40-hour workweek is typical, although self-employed transcriptionists may work unusual hours.

Technology Trends in Medical Transcription

Two technological trends are shaping the way medical transcriptionists work. The improved ability of speech recognition software is allowing some of the transcription process to be conducted by the computer itself. This is especially true in some medical specialties, such as radiology and pathology, where the report content tends to be fairly standard. Once the computer translates the material, the draft is reviewed and corrected by the medical stenographer, who sends it on for final approval. As speech recognition technology becomes more reliable, this trend is expected to continue.

The Internet is also making its presence felt in the field. By receiving dictation and sending transcribed material over the Internet, some transcriptionists are able to work from home, or away from the doctor's medical facility. This can reduce the time needed to process dictated material. As high-speed Internet service becomes more widespread, and security and privacy concerns are resolved, offsite transcription is expected to be more widespread.

Medical Transcriptionist Training and Educational Requirements

Although some individuals with prior medical experience, such as nurses, may be able to start a career as a medical transcriptionist by learning on the job, completion of formal training at a vocational school or college is the best way to find an entry level position. Many schools offer two-year associate degree programs, or one-year diploma programs. In addition, some online institutions are beginning to offer distance learning programs in medical transcription.

Training programs typically include instruction in medical terminology, anatomy and legal issues in the healthcare field. Many schools include courses in English grammar, punctuation, and communication skills as part of their programs. Other courses may cover medical assisting, insurance coding and billing procedures, and general secretarial skills. An internship or externship program at a medical facility is offered by many schools.

Although formal accreditation is not required for medical transcription programs, an AACP accredited program could be required for certification. 

Certification in Medical Transcription

After receiving a degree, medical transcriptionists may want to obtain certification. The Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT) designation is offered by the American Association for Medical Transcription (AAMT), and candidates must pass written and practical examinations. Recertification is required every three years to ensure skills are current. Some schools offer continuing education courses for medical stenographers to keep up with developments in the healthcare field.

To maintain certification, transcriptionists will be required to continually update their medical knowledge, as the field is constantly changing.

Medical Transcriptionist Employment Opportunities

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov), employment for medical transcriptionists will grow 11 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is about average for all occupations. While most medical transcriptionists will continue to work at hospitals, employment growth is expected to be largest at physicians’ offices and clinics. An increasing demand for standardized records should result in rapid employment growth in physicians' offices, especially in large group practices. Those who have earned an associate degree, or who have received their certification in medical transcription, are likely to have the best prospects.

Medical Transcription Salary and Advancement Potential

The median hourly pay for medical transcriptionists in 2010 was $15.82 (bls.gov, 2011). Medical and diagnostic laboratories offered the best pay, an annual salary of $35,690 (bls.gov, 2011). Some transcriptionists are paid by the number of transcribed lines or pages they complete. Self-employed transcribers earned slightly more than those employed by hospitals or clinics, but they typically do not receive benefits such as health insurance.

Medical transcriptionists can have career advancement opportunities in the health care field. Experienced transcriptionists can take on supervisory roles, or start at-home businesses. Other career possibilities, some requiring additional training, include medical coding, medical records administrators, or health information technicians.

Additional Resources for Individuals Enrolling in a Medical Transcription School:
AHDI approved medical transcription education programs
Medical Transcription Industry Alliance
Association for Healthcare documentation Integrity

Campus and Online Medical Transcriptionist Schools

 
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