October 26, 2023
How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist

Medical transcriptionists - also known as healthcare documentation specialists - are the healthcare workers responsible for listening to recordings made by healthcare providers and converting them into text.  

Though medical transcriptionists often work in physicians’ offices or hospitals, there are remote work-from-home options as well. And coupled with the fact that medical transcription programs can be completed in as little as 6 to 12 months, it can be an excellent career opportunity for anyone looking to get into the healthcare field and start working right away. 

If you are interested in becoming a medical transcriptionist, this guide will provide you with helpful information on what the position entails and everything you need to become one.

We Found The Following Schools with Online Medical Transcriptionist Programs

Part One What Is a Medical Transcriptionist?

Medical Transcriptionists document medical histories, diagnoses, assessments, orders, and treatment plans in patient’s medical records. In addition, they are responsible for reviewing and editing documents quickly and accurately to keep up with the high-paced healthcare environment and ensure safe patient care. 

A medical transcriptionist’s primary duty is to ensure that medical reports are accurately translated into text and appropriately stored or transmitted. They generally use word processing, dictation, and transcription equipment to do their jobs.

Many physicians dictate their findings, diagnoses, and reports using specialized voice recording equipment to increase efficiency. They then utilize a medical transcriptionist to ensure that patient data is recorded immediately in the patient's electronic medical record.

The quick translations performed by a medical transcriptionist make it possible for patient care to run smoothly and efficiently. For example, by transcribing physician orders quickly, other medical professionals have timely access to necessary patient information to follow through with patient care plans.

Medical Transcriptionist Skills 

Some transcriptionists also review medical documents that have been translated to text by speech recognition software. They correct them for spelling, grammar, and clarity. This is another reason transcriptionists must also have extensive knowledge of medical terminology. When a recording is unclear, they contact physicians or their assistants for clarification. 

Medical transcriptionists who work in hospitals or physician’s offices may also perform clerical duties such as filing or retrieving documents.

Transcriptionists must be knowledgeable in:

  1. Anatomy and physiology
  2. Diagnostic procedures
  3. Pharmacology
  4. Medical terminology and abbreviations 
  5. Patient confidentiality guidelines
  6. Legal documentation requirements
  7. The use of audio playback equipment and other specialized software
  8. Electronic health records systems 

Part Two What Do Medical Transcriptionists Do?

Medical transcriptionists work with other healthcare professionals in doctors’ offices, medical clinics, hospitals, and independent transcribing companies. They ensure the accurate recording of written records of patient health information and clinical encounters. Some of the documents that they transcribe include: 

  1. Patient health histories
  2. Operation and procedure reports
  3. Discharge summaries
  4. Patient evaluations
  5. Referral letters
  6. Chart notes and records written by medical professionals

In addition, transcriptionists review and correct transcriptions completed by speech recognition software.

Part Three Medical Transcriptionist Salary 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual wage for medical transcriptionists in 2022 was $34,730, or $16.70 per hour. The lowest ten percent of transcriptionists earned less than $24,340, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $51,280. 

The BLS also reports that transcriptionists who work for hospitals earn the highest wages. Those working for administrative or support services companies most often earn less. However, many transcription companies offer part-time options and the opportunity to work from home, and some may find this flexibility worth the lower income. 

Highest Paying States for Medical Transcriptionists

Though there is little variability in medical transcription salaries within individual industries, ZipRecruiter.com reports that the hourly wage for the position is significantly higher in some American cities. The five cities paying the highest wages for medical transcriptionists are:

  1. Federal Way, WA  - $52,472 annually, or $25.23/hr
  2. Santa Clara, CA - $51,545 annually, or $24.78/hr
  3. San Francisco, CA - $51,402 annually, or $24.71/hr
  4. Washington, D.C. - $50,366 annually, or $24.21/hr
  5. Los Angeles, CA - $50,224 annually, or $24.15/hr

Medical transcriptionists who work full-time may also be eligible for employee benefits, including health insurance, paid vacation time and sick leave, dental insurance, and more.

Part Four How Do You Become a Medical Transcriptionist? 

In order to become a medical transcriptionist, you’ll need to complete the following steps:

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma or Equivalent

To be a medical transcriptionist, you need to start by obtaining a high school diploma or a GED. 

Step 2: Complete a Medical Transcriptionist Program

Then you can choose to take a certification program through a community college or vocational school or take an online certification program. Each certification program takes approximately six months to a year to complete, depending upon the program and your chosen schedule.

Alternatively, you can choose to pursue a two-year associate degree that combines medical transcriptionist classes with more generalized coursework. Many students who know they want to advance their education in the future take this route.

Whether you choose a certification program or an associate’s degree program, some of the coursework you will take includes:

  1. Anatomy
  2. Legal regulations regarding healthcare documentation and patient privacy
  3. Medical terminology
  4. Grammar and punctuation
  5. Hands-on medical transcription training with state-of-the-art transcribing equipment and software

Step 3: Become Certified 

After completing your education, you can demonstrate your skills by becoming a certified medical transcriptionist by the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity as one of two documentation specialists:

  1. A Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS) , or
  2. A Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS) 

RHDS Certification 

The RHDS certification is appropriate for those who:

  1. Have less than two years of experience in acute care, or
  2. Have worked in a single-specialty environment such as radiology or private practice who want to move into other areas

CHDS Certification

The CHDS certification is appropriate for those who: 

  1. Have more than two years of experience in acute care transcription or multi-specialty equivalent
  2. Work in a multi-specialty acute care facility with various specialties, document types, and diagnoses that lend themselves to more challenging transcribing responsibilities 

Both certifications require meeting eligibility requirements and passage of an exam.

We Found The Following Schools with Online Medical Transcriptionist Programs

Part Five What Is the Career Outlook for Medical Transcriptionists?

According to the BLS, there is a predicted decline of 4% in the number of medical transcriptionist jobs available between 2022-2032. But other sources suggest that may not be the case.

The journal ‘For the Record’ stated that the significant increase in physician “burnout” is partly blamed on clinicians having to self-document large amounts of patient data. As physician dissatisfaction rises due to increasing clinical documentation tasks, there is a possibility that hospitals will return to dictation and transcribing to improve job satisfaction. 

Additionally, a study published in JAMA Network Open reported that computer-generated reports had error rates of 7.4%, far higher than the 0.4% of reports reviewed by a trained medical transcriber. 

The bottom line is that though a transcriptionist's job may shift to editing and correction, their work will continue to be valuable to the healthcare industry.

Part Six What are the Continuing Education Requirements for a Medical Transcriptionist?

Medical transcriptionists must go through a recertification process every three years. They are also required to complete a minimum of 30 continuing education credits. At least 26 of these credits must be in the core subject areas of clinical medicine, technology and tools, professional development, and medicolegal issues.

Failure to re-credential will lead to notification of lapsed certification and a 90-day grace period for submitting all appropriate documentation of credits.

Part Seven Where Can I Learn More About Becoming a Medical Transcriptionist? 

Two organizations provide support and career information for healthcare documentation specialists. They are:

  1. The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI)
  2. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)

Part Eight Medical Transcriptionist FAQs

  • Can a medical transcriptionist work from home?

    • Once you have trained to become a medical transcriptionist, working from home is as easy as applying for a job on a freelance website or through a transcription service website. If you have experience and certification as a Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist, you will improve your chances of being hired.
  • Is medical transcription still in demand?

    • Though improvements in speech recognition software have decreased the overall need for medical transcriptionists, there is still a demand for those who can both transcribe and edit and correct computer-generated speech-to-text documents. Additionally, the aging of the population and increased use of medical services will keep demand at a relatively steady level.
  • How much can medical transcriptionists make from home?

    • Medical transcriptionists in the US earn a median income of $34,730 per year or $16.70 per hour.  However, those working for remote transcriptionist companies often make slightly less than those working in a hospital setting. Salary also depends on their level of work experience and whether they work full-time or part-time.
  • What pays more: medical coding or transcription?

    • According to the BLS, medical coders earn a median wage of $47,180 per year or $22.69 per hour.  The median annual salary for medical transcriptionists in 2022 was $34,730, or $16.70 per hour. 
  • Is medical transcription a dying field?

    • Though more large organizations are using technology, there will likely always be a need for medical transcription work. However, the job’s primary responsibilities may shift to reviewing, editing, and correcting the product of speech recognition software.

We Found The Following Schools with Online Medical Transcriptionist Programs

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