Nature of the Work
Medical transcriptionists listen to dictated recordings made by physicians
and other healthcare professionals and transcribe them into medical
reports, correspondence, and other administrative material. They generally
listen to recordings on a headset, using a foot pedal to pause the
recording when necessary, and key the text into a personal computer
or word processor, editing as necessary for grammar and clarity. The
documents they produce include discharge summaries, history and physical
examination reports, operative reports, consultation reports, autopsy
reports, diagnostic imaging studies, progress notes, and referral
letters. Medical transcriptionists return transcribed documents to
the physicians or other healthcare professionals who dictated them
for review and signature, or correction. These documents eventually
become part of patients' permanent files.
To understand and accurately transcribe dictated reports into a format
that is clear and comprehensible for the reader, medical transcriptionists
must understand medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, diagnostic
procedures, pharmacology, and treatment assessments. They also must
be able to translate medical jargon and abbreviations into their expanded
forms. To help identify terms appropriately, transcriptionists refer
to standard medical reference materials -- both printed and electronic;
some of these are available over the Internet. Medical transcriptionists
must comply with specific standards that apply to the style of medical
records, in addition to the legal and ethical requirements involved
with keeping patient information confidential.
Experienced transcriptionists spot mistakes or inconsistencies in
a medical report and check to correct the information. Their ability
to understand and correctly transcribe patient assessments and treatments
reduces the chance of patients receiving ineffective or even harmful
treatments and ensures high quality patient care.
Currently, most healthcare providers transmit dictation to medical
transcriptionists using either digital or analog dictating equipment.
The Internet has grown to be a popular mode for transmitting documentation.
Many transcriptionists receive dictation over the Internet and are
able to quickly return transcribed documents to clients for approval.
Another emerging trend is the implementation of speech recognition
technology, which electronically translates sound into text and creates
drafts of reports. Reports are then formatted; edited for mistakes
in translation, punctuation, or grammar; and checked for consistency
and possible medical errors. Transcriptionists working in areas with
standardized terminology, such as radiology or pathology, are more
likely to encounter speech recognition technology. However, use of
speech recognition technology will become more widespread as the technology
becomes more sophisticated.
Medical transcriptionists who work in physicians' offices and clinics
may have other office duties, such as receiving patients, scheduling
appointments, answering the telephone, and handling incoming and outgoing
mail. Medical secretaries, discussed in the statement on secretaries
and administrative assistants elsewhere in the Handbook, may also
transcribe as part of their jobs. Court reporters, also discussed
elsewhere in the Handbook, have similar duties, but with a different
focus. They take verbatim reports of speeches, conversations, legal
proceedings, meetings, and other events when written accounts of spoken
words are necessary for correspondence, records, or legal proof.
The majority of these workers are employed in comfortable settings,
such as hospitals, physicians' offices, transcription service offices,
clinics, laboratories, medical libraries, government medical facilities,
or at home. Many medical transcriptionists telecommute from home-based
offices as employees or subcontractors for hospitals and transcription
services or as self-employed, independent contractors.
Work in this occupation presents hazards from sitting in the same
position for long periods, and workers can suffer wrist, back, neck,
or eye problems due to strain and risk repetitive motion injuries
such as carpal tunnel syndrome. The pressure to be accurate and productive
also can be stressful.
Many medical transcriptionists work a standard 40-hour week. Self-employed
medical transcriptionists are more likely to work irregular hours -- including
part time, evenings, weekends, or on-call at any time.
Medical transcriptionists held about 101,000 jobs in 2002. About 4
out of 10 worked in hospitals and another 3 out of 10 worked in offices
of physicians. Others worked for business support services, offices
of other health practitioners, medical and diagnostic laboratories,
outpatient care centers, and home healthcare services.
Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Employers prefer to hire transcriptionists who have completed postsecondary
training in medical transcription, offered by many vocational schools,
community colleges, and distance-learning programs. Completion of
a 2-year associate degree or 1-year certificate program -- including
coursework in anatomy, medical terminology, legal issues relating
to healthcare documentation, and English grammar and punctuation -- is
highly recommended, but not always required. Many of these programs
include supervised on-the-job experience. Some transcriptionists,
especially those already familiar with medical terminology due to
previous experience as a nurse or medical secretary, become proficient
through on-the-job training.
The American Association for Medical Transcription (AAMT) awards the
voluntary designation, Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT), to
those who earn passing scores on written and practical examinations.
As in many other fields, certification is recognized as a sign of
competence. Because medical terminology is constantly evolving, medical
transcriptionists are encouraged to regularly update their skills.
Every 3 years, CMTs must earn continuing education credits to be recertified.
In addition to understanding medical terminology, transcriptionists
must have good English grammar and punctuation skills, as well as
proficiency with personal computers and word processing software.
Normal hearing acuity and good listening skills also are necessary.
Employers often require applicants to take pre-employment tests.
With experience, medical transcriptionists can advance to supervisory
positions, home-based work, editing, consulting, or teaching. With
additional education or training, some become medical records and
health information technicians, medical coders, or medical records
and health information administrators.
Job opportunities will be good. Employment of medical transcriptionists
is projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through
2012. Demand for medical transcription services will be spurred by
a growing and aging population. Older age groups receive proportionately
greater numbers of medical tests, treatments, and procedures that
require documentation. A high level of demand for transcription services
also will be sustained by the continued need for electronic documentation
that can be easily shared among providers, third-party payers, regulators,
and consumers. Growing numbers of medical transcriptionists will be
needed to amend patients' records, edit for grammar, and identify
discrepancies in medical records.
Contracting out transcription work overseas and advancements in speech
recognition technology are not expected to significantly reduce the
need for well-trained medical transcriptionists domestically. Contracting
out transcription work abroad -- to countries such as India -- has grown
more popular as transmitting confidential health information over
the Internet has become more secure; however, the demand for overseas
transcription services is expected to supplement the demand for well-trained
domestic medical transcriptionists. Speech-recognition technology
allows physicians and other health professionals to dictate medical
reports to a computer that immediately creates an electronic document.
In spite of the advances in this technology, it has been difficult
for the software to grasp and analyze the human voice and the English
language with all its diversity. As a result, there will continue
to be a need for skilled medical transcriptionists to identify and
appropriately edit the inevitable errors created by speech recognition
systems, and create a final document.
Hospitals will continue to employ a large percentage of medical transcriptionists,
but job growth there will not be as fast as in other industries. Increasing
demand for standardized records should result in rapid employment
growth in offices of physicians or other health practitioners, especially
in large group practices.
Medical transcriptionists had median hourly earnings of $13.05 in
2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $10.87 and $15.63. The
lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.27, and the highest 10 percent
earned more than $17.97. Median hourly earnings in the industries
employing the largest numbers of medical transcriptionists in 2002
were as follows:
|General medical and surgical hospitals
Offices of physicians
Business support services
Compensation methods for medical transcriptionists vary. Some are
paid based on the number of hours they work or on the number of lines
they transcribe. Others receive a base pay per hour with incentives
for extra production. Employees of transcription services and independent
contractors almost always receive production-based pay. Independent
contractors earn more than transcriptionists who work for others but
have higher expenses than their corporate counterparts, receive no
benefits, and may face higher risk of termination than employed transcriptionists.
A number of other workers type, record information, and process paperwork.
Among these are Court
reporters; human resources
assistants, except payroll and timekeeping; receptionists and information
clerks; and secretaries and
administrative assistants. Other workers who provide medical support include
medical assistants and medical records and health information
The above artilce was from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
OOH ONET Codes
|Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2004-05 Edition, Medical Transcriptionists, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos271.htm (visited May 10, 2004).