Medical transcriptionists produce documents for medical records from dictation provided by practitioners and other health care providers regarding such issues and events as x-ray and imaging reports, surgical reports, admission and discharge summaries, medical histories and physical examinations, autopsy reports, consultation findings, letters of referral, and progress notes.
Duties, Activities, and Scope of Practice
Medical transcriptionists listen to dictations and type up the reports for verification and signature of the dictating health care professional. These documents eventually become part of the patient's medical records. Therefore medical transcriptionists have to understand and abide by rules of patient confidentiality.
The medical transcriptionist receives dictations in several modes. They can be via digital or analog recording devices or over the Internet. With the advent of speech recognition software, the transcriptionist may even receive a draft report derived from this software that needs proofreading and proper formatting. As this technology becomes more sophisticated, medical transcription will evolve as well.
Medical transcriptionists need to have a good understanding of medical terminology, anatomy, pathology, and medical procedures. Resource materials are available online and in print. Experienced transcriptionists will be able to spot any inconsistencies or mistakes and refer to the practitioner for correction.
Different practitioners and facilities will possibly have different formats to follow for their documents. Medical transcriptionists need to be able to adapt to the changes accordingly.
Education and Training
Postsecondary training for medical transcriptionists is available through distance-learning programs, vocational schools, and community colleges. Employers prefer to hire those with formal training and either a certificate or an associate's degree in medical transcription.
The curriculum includes medical terminology, English grammar and punctuation, anatomy, and legal issues of health care documentation. Supervised on-the-job experience is also often included in these programs. Those with prior medical experience, such as nurses, nursing aides, medical secretaries, etc., often find medical transcription to be an alternative career.
Certification is not required but demonstrates competency. Voluntary certification is available from the American Association for Medical Transcription (AAMT) for those who pass their certification exam. Recertification is given every three years to those who complete the required continuing-education credits.
Work Settings and Salaries
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, approximately 105,000 medical transcriptionists were employed in 2004. About 40 percent worked for hospitals, 30 percent in physicians' offices, and others worked in a variety of settings, including those who were self-employed with a home-based business. Some of the other settings included medical laboratories, outpatient care centers, clinics, and therapy offices. Those working in settings other than home-based businesses usually worked forty-hour weeks. Those who were self-employed worked more irregular hours and often part-time on weekends, evenings, or on call.
Salaries vary with the employer. Those who were self-employed tended to earn more but had no benefits and higher expenses. The median salary according to the U.S. Department of Labor for 2004 was $13.64 per hour. Hourly salaries ranged from $9.67 to $19.11.
Career Potential and Additional Information
The outlook for medical transcriptionists is very good for the next decade. This profession is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations. Two factors influence this. One is the growing and aging population, which is expected to seek more medical services that will need to be documented. The other is the need to create accurate electronic medical records that can be shared by providers, third-party payers, consumers, and health information systems.
For further information about careers in medical transcription, contact the American Association for Medical Transcription. Their Web site is