Ever wondered what YOUR dream job might look like? If you’ve ever considered medical transcription and working from home, here’s a good look at what you can expect. While a career as a healthcare documentation specialist (also known as a medical transcriptionist) isn’t for everyone, it certainly can be the perfect job for many.
Medical transcription (also called healthcare documentation) is absolutely one career that delivers what it promises – the potential to make good money and work from home – IF you’ve been trained properly and know what you’re doing. Unless you require a lot of face-to-face socialization in your life, working from home as an MT has some incredible advantages.
You Can Set Your Own Schedule
First, most medical transcription jobs allow you to set your own schedule. That does not mean, however, that you can work when you want to; you’ll have deadlines – time and production goals — that must be met. However, when you’re hired, you may be able to select the hours that you want to work and usually the days of the week. You might be asked to work a weekend day as most facilities and services operate 24/7 and 365 days per year (including holidays). The good news is that you’re in the driver’s seat and, with most employers, can request a specific work schedule when you’re hired. You can even work a split shift. In fact, this is becoming a more preferred arrangement as it allows better turnaround time (TAT) for reports going back to the hospitals and medical facilities, and it produces a “fresher” staff. For example, it’s easier to work hard for 4 hours, take a break for several hours, and come back and work another 4 rather than trying to work a solid 8. The ebbs and flows of transcription work availability sometimes comes in fits and starts, so having transcriptionists working many different shifts and smaller, consistent blocks of time sometimes serves both parties well. That also allows more flexibility for the transcriptionist.
How Do I Get Hired?
For home-based positions today, almost all hiring is done over the Internet. You go online and search for jobs or you go to specific employer websites to find out if they are hiring. Even if they aren’t, they will usually go ahead and accept your resume and do the testing required.
All the Help Wanted Ads Say They Want at Least 2 Years’ Experience!
THIS is where it gets interesting! A good solid ADVANCED training program like ours will get your foot in the door even when the employer says they want 2 years’ experience. The answer is knowing what the employer is looking for: As a past MT employer ourselves, we know what qualities these employers want in their staff. They want someone who knows the ins and outs of the MT profession (tricks of the trade) with superb attention to detail, a working knowledge of medicine, and plenty of practice with advanced medical reports. They want someone who is trained the right way, (not the quick way) under the care of an experienced certified instructor, with a high degree of professionalism. Most importantly, they want someone who can pass their employer testing the first time. That is the type of individual who is highly desired and valuable to an MT service employer. In addition, being able to do all the above in a highly efficient manner (meaning knowing software and computer shortcuts) will ensure that the MT makes the excellent income she needs to be satisfied. It all boils down to being able to pass the employers’ testing.
What Does Employer “Testing” Mean?
Testing, in the medical transcription industry, simply means the transcriptionist who is applying for a job accepts and downloads audio files from the employer for testing purposes. These files contain real medical reports on real patients (usually more advanced hospital dictation) with the identifying information removed for training and testing purposes. The MT transcribes these never-before-heard documents with a great degree of skill and accuracy, and then returns the finished document to the employer for verification purposes.
Many of the employers’ tests are advanced dictation from some of the most difficult dictators, such as fast talkers, quiet mumblers, foreign accents, dictation with lots of noise in the background, or difficult medical procedures with obscure medical terminology. There may be hard-to-hear reports as well as dictation with obvious errors in it (which a good MT will catch.)
I can tell you from experience that the majority of applicants will not be able to pass these employer tests. It’s our estimate that only about 1 in 10 will get a good enough score to continue on in the interview process. (If you want to know why, read some of our other articles on our website which explains why.) A good MT will be able to get most of the reports done with acceptable results. However, a highly desirable MT will be able to get those reports done with a high degree of accuracy because they have been trained with reports just like these throughout their training period. The desirable MT knows just where to go to research those obscure terms and has been fully and properly trained to be able to decipher any difficult dictation placed before her. In fact, the desirable MT has been trained with advanced reports just like these and knows what to do. (That’s the difference between an average training program and an advanced MT training program like MTACC: We have a 100% job placement rate in our Advanced MT and Editing program.)
How is the Employers’ Testing Done?
Once accepted for testing, you test right online. Some tests are difficult physician dictation but testing can also be done in a multi-step fashion. This means that if you pass the first level of testing (for instance, grammar and punctuation), you are allowed to go on to the next level (medical terminology). If you continue to pass, you will finally end up (usually in a third or fourth stage of testing) actually transcribing reports. It might be 2 or 3, or it might be 4 or 5. It is at the discretion of the hiring company or facility.
Most often, the transcription testing portion will also include at least one editing report because so much of today’s work is editing speech recognition. The passing rate is very slim except for the best MTs who have been properly trained. Those who can pass all the parts of MT testing and whose computer requirements are found to be adequate, will most likely be offered a position and a start date. THAT’S when the fun begins! Take a look at some of your options at that point.
What Are My Options for Hire?
While enrolled In our Advanced Medical Transcription and Editing training program, you’ll learn the many options available to you as you reach Module 30 (the last module before graduation!) However, we have summarized some of the options here so you’ll have an idea of what to expect:
Medical facilities and transcription services hire their medical transcriptionists in a variety of ways. You might be hired as an employee, part-time or full-time. You would then receive benefits (such as insurance, paid time off, life insurance, or participation in a Retirement Plan). You might even be paid an hourly wage with a bonus for high production.
Some employers prefer to only hire independent contractors (ICs) and usually pay a slightly higher line rate but do not offer benefits of any kind. Taxes become the MT’s responsibility, however, you may be able to deduct a lot of your expenses to more than make up the difference. In this case, the employer sends the appropriate tax documents (1099) at the end of the year to the IC. In today’s workplace, there are many options for the independent contractor MT, and the savvy graduate will apply only for jobs that meet his or her criteria. (Don’t worry – we show you all of this and more in our training program.)
For instance, if you don’t need health insurance coverage, you might find that you’d make more applying for jobs that hire only ICs. (Usually if health insurance is built into the equation, employers tend to think that they are giving you additional “pay” by giving you benefits so this is something you may encounter.) After you decide that the schedule is something conducive to your lifestyle and needs, it’s important to find out exactly how you will be paid.
How Are MTs Paid?
There are many options. There are several main methods of payment for transcriptionists in the workplace today, and then many variations of those options. It’s important to your future that you understand what these methods are and how they differ from one another. (We cover this in extensive detail within our Advanced MT and Editing training program.) Once you are down to the nitty gritty of being hired, make sure and ask exactly how (and when) you will be paid. (You’ll also want to ask a variety of other questions to make sure the employer is right for you. We cover all this and more in our program.)
Very few MT services today pay by the hour and if they do, it is based upon the production goals that must be achieved by a certain deadline. With many employers who pay by the hour, if you meet or exceed a certain threshold each week, you’ll be entitled to extra pay for anything transcribed over that.
The majority of transcription work today is paid purely on production. This means that the bottom line is up to you. How well you do and how many lines you produce on a daily basis will determine the amount that you make.
Many, if not most, MT services and facilities offer bonuses for accuracy and high volume production. Bonuses may also be offered for certain types of reports that an MT specializes in, as well as being able to handle the more challenging reports– mush mouths, fast dictators, foreign accents, etc. But that’s ONLY if you can pass their employment tests, which we’ll explain in a minute.
They Said They Paid By the Line! So That’s Good, Right?
Here’s a question we hear all the time! The answer is . . . it depends on several things, the first being how they define the line. Some companies pay by the 65-character line including spaces and other characters. Some pay strictly by the visible black character (VBC), which means you only get paid for a typed character on the page (so no keystrokes or unseen spaces). Still other companies may pay by the page (particularly in radiology where many normal reports are simply normal “templates.”) Then you have those employers that pay by the computer byte, by the audio minute, by the word, etc. I’m sure there are even more variations than that. The line rates can vary from $0.03 per line to $0.09 per line or slightly above, depending on the type of work being done.
For instance, a medical editor (a medical transcriptionist who listens to the voice files and makes corrections only) is not typing as much and so will make the lower end of that scale per line on speech-recognized drafts. On the other hand, the transcriptionist typing a full report from “scratch” will usually earn the higher line rate because obviously that is creating a report from a blank page and typing every word. Still others in the workforce may be typing directly into an electronic medical record (EHR) and will be paid somewhere in between. Most companies have a minimum line rate per hour that a new MT must produce, although generally that does not apply until training is complete (usually 60-90 days of on-the-job work/training). Some companies pay every 2 weeks while others pay on the 15th and the last day of the month, for instance. Some pay once per month and some may pay weekly. Most all today offer direct deposit while others may pay by check. All of this is valuable information that should be asked during the hiring process. (Don’t worry – by the time you finish our Advanced MT and Editing program, you’ll know exactly what you want AND what you need to ask.)
Training within the company itself is paid out usually at the MT’s home state’s minimum wage or a standard such as $10 per hour rate. There are a specific number of hours designated to training and within that time frame, the new MT is expected to absorb enough to become work ready, meaning ready to start typing reports and producing accurate and timely reports.
So you can’t really say paying by the line is either good or bad unless you know HOW the line is counted, WHAT the rate is per line, and some other platform-related questions (which you’ll learn while training with us.) We cover how to compare apples to oranges with the employment offer in our online modules. For example, which is better: Employer A, who offers 9 CPL (cents per line) with a line that is 70 visual characters, or Employer B who offers 7.5 CPL with a line defined as 65 characters including spaces? Think you know? Our graduates do.
Even after the corporate training has finished, a newly hired MT will always be under 100% review by a QA (Quality Assurance) person. This QA individual is an experienced transcriptionist who reviews the finished product coming back from the MT before it goes back to the client/employer. This means that every report that is typed will be sent to someone to review it and offer feedback. It becomes the new hire’s responsibility to review all feedback, ask questions for clarification of any points, and then to apply that feedback going forward.
So How Accurate Do You Need to Be?
Of course, an accuracy rate of 100% is the goal on every report, and in today’s MT world, a standard of 98% to 99% is usually required for even the new transcriptionist. This is achievable and attainable through diligence in review of previous reports, samples, and paying close attention to detail (such as account specific instructions). (Our Advanced MT and Editing program prepares you diligently for this accuracy and teaches everything you need to know to become hired and excel in the profession.)
I Need a High Typing Speed, Right?
I love to answer this question! The answer is NO, a high speed isn’t a requirement. First of all, many people believe that if you can type fast, you can become a medical transcriptionist. It’s important to know that there is just so much more involved, if you’re being trained properly. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that if your training is advanced (like the MTACC program), you DO NOT need a high typing speed.
A high typing speed would be preferable over a low typing speed if everything else is the same, but that’s not exactly how medical transcriptionists make the best money. There are several things that go into what we call “efficiency standards” for our students. The first of these would be accuracy. Someone who is an accurate typist of 50 wpm can outperform someone who types 65 wpm who is not as accurate. The key is working smarter, not harder! We show our students how to outperform even their best beginning scores by using just a few of our productivity tools.
As another example, a medical spellchecker will catch terms that may be invisible at first glance. (A misspelled word takes off significant points in an employer’s test.) We also teach computer shortcuts which can help you go much faster than stopping and using your mouse every minute or so.
(For example, on your keyboard, did you know holding down the ALT key with your left thumb, then hitting the TAB key with your left middle finger will toggle you between 2 open windows on your computer? Did you know you can set up your F10 key to be a SAVE key and never lose your work again? Were you aware you could produce a template of text with just a few keystrokes just using the standard features of MS Word? There are many, many shortcuts like this you’ll be learning — you may be surprised at how much faster you’ll be able to go.)
Is it Hard To Work From Home By Yourself?
Not really, as at least 90% of the medical transcription industry is now home-based. Whether you work for a clinic, a hospital, or a transcription service, almost everyone is doing transcription from their home these days. Even though it might seem isolative, it’s not. For one thing, you always have that doctor in your ear, telling you the intimate and private details of a patient’s medical health. Many employers also have forums where workers can gather to chat, ask questions, and get to know one another. (But don’t go there during working hours if you want to keep your production high!)
How Do I Get Set Up To Start Working?
You don’t need to worry about this. Once you’ve received a job offer and have determined that the employer is right for you, you receive your job training online with their corporate trainer. The trainer usually configures your computer for you, adding the specific software programs necessary for you to perform transcription. (Sometimes you’ll use your own computer and other services will send you a specific one just for work purposes.)
The corporate trainer will install the platform necessary for you to type into their system, whatever that may be. The platform might be Word-based (such as EditScript) or might be a standalone transcription typing platform like Fluency. Today, almost everything is Internet-based. They give you instruction over the phone or go directly into your computer remotely to do the work. They also set up your business email and configure instant messaging for any questions you may have. This might be via a program like Skype or IM software like Trillian. As a home-based transcriptionist, the most common modes of communication will consist of email, instant messaging, or by phone. If the typing platform you’ll be using comes with built-in shortcuts or if the platform is MS Word-based, Word shortcuts can be used which should greatly improve your productivity. (Our graduates love this because we teach some awesome computer and Word shortcuts.) Some of the training in working for any employer will involve learning the ins and outs of the specific programs that the employer uses, and maximizing your efficiency.
Why is Efficiency Important?
Efficiency (such as knowing how to use a program) plus great MT training equals higher production, which equals more pay. Word expander programs are also a huge boon to production if used properly. The corporate trainer would most likely train you in these or at least recommend some to use and how to use them. You’ll be already knowledgeable in how to use word expanders since our Advanced MT and Editing program already teaches this in detail.
Is There a Downside?
That depends on how you look at it. The most common misconception within the industry for an MT starting out is that you can multi-task and/or work at home and still be “available” for your family. While this is true in part (You CAN rush to school to pick up a sick child or be available for an event from time to time), in order to be productive, the focus unequivocally must be on the medical record itself. Working at home has many distinct, irrefutable advantages. However, the MT gets into trouble when the focus is not on their job. Some people don’t work well under the production method, but if you add in factors such as too many distractions during work hours or constant interruptions like phone calls, TV, and coffee breaks, quality suffers, production suffers, and certainly accuracy suffers. In that case, you wouldn’t make the income you needed and you would not be happy. These are the major reasons for failure in a work-at-home environment. However, if the MT is self-disciplined and devoted to the job, with proper training, using efficient practices, and treating their environment the same as they would an on-site job, success is always going to be the end result. The same can be said for the ones that work in the evening after the children go to bed or while the children are in school. They don’t allow distractions in the form of phones calls, doorbells, or TV to interfere with their work. Medical transcribing is an extremely lucrative job and one that can be good for so many reasons – for young parents who want to share parenting with their spouse, for those who don’t live in large metropolitan areas or cannot commute, for people who are self-motivated and require a minimal amount of supervision.
All of these scenarios (and more) are reasons why people decide to pursue transcription as their dream career. Most of the successful transcriptionists are all detail-oriented and extremely talented in terms of research, understanding the complexities of medical conditions and disease (learned while in training), and skilled in computer use (shortcuts and other efficiency methods). The most important trait, however, is treating their at-home work like the real career that it is and being able to concentrate 100% on it when they need to.
What About the Future of Medical Transcription?
Today, more than ever, the medical transcriptionist has a brighter future as the number of critical and major errors coming to light in electronic records continues to grow. Speech recognition is not all it was promised to be because the technology is not human. It cannot tell the difference between what it thought it heard and what actually was dictated – but a person can. We’re seeing more and more openings for MTs as more clinics and medical facilities revert back to hiring MTs and MT services. (Just do a search on Google for Medical Transcriptionist Jobs.)
Since medical error is the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States, the Joint Commission has begun to look into the transcription-based error part of this crisis. That means that the need will increase in the future for quality transcriptionists, and hopefully along with that will come emphasis on (or perhaps even mandated) credentialing – and along with that, higher pay. The MT is a highly-skilled medical professional with the incredible option of being able to save time, money, and wear-and-tear by working from the comfort of his or her own home – and making a substantial amount of money per year.
Is There Room For Advancement?
If you’re planning on advancing in this career, it all starts with your MT training. The more skills the newly hired MT has and the more accurate he or she is, the more often opportunities will present themselves in the form of supervisory positions and QA work (where the MT now reviews and edits other transcriptionists’ work). It also opens the door for more opportunities and affords the most highly skilled the opportunity to become mentors, professionals within the industry, and even educators. You may even decide to open your own MT service and hire other MTs to work for you. (In either case, be sure you get the highest quality MT training available so you are prepared for any opportunity that comes your way.)
The profession of medical transcription has been around for a long time. From our vantage point, it is just beginning to come into its own in terms of its high value as more and more physicians and medical facilities realize the need for accuracy and completeness in their patients’ medical records. We’re excited to see what the future brings as the need for MTs rises each year.
To the career medical transcriptionist, there is nothing more sacred than a patient’s medical record. The transcriptionists interpret, create, and edit these records according to professional standards, ensuring the integrity and preserving the individual patient’s health story. These highly trained individuals are an invaluable component to the medical profession and are becoming a vital component of good medical care, as the electronic processing of medical record further evolves. We’d love to welcome you into this lucrative and satisfying career and help YOU make a difference too!