What is a Medical Transcriptionist?

The field of health information management is probably larger and more complex than you expect. One category of professional that is often under-recognized is the medical transcriptionist. These administrators work behind the scenes, and the work they do is highly specific. But they play an important role in the effort to improve and advance the delivery of health care for all. Learn more about a career as a medical transcriptionist, and see for yourself if it’s a realistic professional option.

What Does a Medical Transcriptionist Do?

Doctors and other healthcare providers are extremely busy. That is why many rely on voice recorders to keep notes and records. The information in these recordings is important, but it’s largely useless until it has been written out and carefully organized. That is where the medical transcriptionist comes in. These professionals are tasked with listening to the recordings, interpreting the meaning and intent, and writing it down into documents or forms. In some cases, these professionals also review documents created by voice recognition software for errors and omissions.

How is Medical Transcriptionist Different from Billers and Coders?

The work of a medical transcriptionist might sound similar to that of a medical biller or coder, but there are important differences. Medical billers and coders take health information and translate it into an entirely different language of signs and symbols.
A medical transcriptionist simply takes the human voice and writes down what is said in a format that is easier to understand.
They still need to have a careful understanding of anatomy, medical terminology, and heath care processes. But they will not need to be experts in medical billing codes like their close but different colleagues.

Where Does a Medical Transcriptionist Work?

You will find these professionals working in every type of healthcare setting–hospitals, clinics, public health organizations, and residential care facilities. There are also a number of medical transcriptionists who work from home or serve as independent contractors. The work requires a standard computer terminal as well as specialized equipment that allows the transcription process to run faster, more accurately, and more efficiently.

What is Required to Work as a Medical Transcriptionist?

In addition to a high-school diploma or GED, a medical transcriptionist must have either a specialized diploma or an associate’s degree. These can take six months to two years to complete. These programs will combine transcription training with instruction on subjects like medical terminology, pathology and anatomy. Once a program has been completed, it is possible to start looking for work immediately, but most professionals choose to get certified to bolster their credentials. The Association of Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) offers two types of certification that are well-respected throughout the industry. Both require passing a comprehensive exam, but with the endorsement that comes from certification a medical transcriptionist opens up a lot more career opportunities.

What Skills Must a Medical Transcriptionist Have?

There are all different types of people who enjoy and excel in their roles as medical transcriptionists. However, there is a certain set of skills they all share:
  • Writing – Understanding of grammar, spelling, and sentence structure
  • Concentration – Paying close attention for long amounts of time
  • Independence – Working effectively with little supervision or oversight
  • Research – Locating obscure information quickly and accurately
  • Typing – Achieving a high level of speed and accuracy
  • Memory – Holding onto complex information for extended periods of time
  • Commitment – Learning new skills and staying current with medical terms
  • Flexibility – Adapting to different languages, accents, and speech styles

What is the Job Outlook for a Medical Transcriptionist?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the demand for medical transcriptionists is expected to shrink in coming years. There are estimated to be 57,400 of these professionals employed in America, but by 2026 that figure is expected to be reduced by 2,000 people, which represents a three percent decline. That is important for anyone considering this career to keep in mind, but it should not necessarily dissuade someone from moving forward with education or certification.
Median Pay for Medical Transcriptionist
Even if the field is expected to contract, there will remain a demand for qualified medical transcriptionists for years to come. The median pay is estimated at $35,720, making this a fairly lucrative opportunity for someone without a bachelor’s degree. But a job in medical transcription is also a great way to get started in the much larger field of health information management. That field is growing fast and calling loudly for qualified professionals. As opportunities in medical transcription begin to disappear, experienced professionals can transition rather easily onto a parallel career track with almost limitless potential.


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