What Is Medical Transcription?
Medical transcriptionists use computers and sophisticated audio playback devices to convert healthcare professionals' recorded voice notes into legible treatment plans and patient records. They draw on their knowledge of human anatomy and medical jargon to translate complex ideas into language suitable for patient care documentation and insurance reimbursement. In some organizations, they work with medical billers and coders to help them maintain accurate patient data and financial records. In doctors' offices, they may perform administrative duties in addition to transcription, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov). For more information, see our medical transcriptionist career page.
Medical Transcription Program Information
Colleges and trade schools offer traditional on-campus medical transcription programs as well as online or hybrid programs. Medical transcription training programs combine insight into the healthcare industry with skills development. Coursework could cover professional writing, computer operations, human anatomy and legal principles related to patient care. Studies may explore the evolution of the technological tools of the trade, such as voice recognition software.
Medical transcription training programs may offer experience in a professional setting, using tools and resources common in most hospitals, physicians' offices and medical business support facilities. The following programs are available to those who are interested in entering the field of medical transcription.
- Certificate programs usually take one year to complete, depending on the course load.
- Students can complement their existing office and computer skills with knowledge of the healthcare field and medical terminology.
- These programs are often designed for students with experience in other aspects of healthcare or office administration.
- Associate degree programs can generally be completed within two years, depending on a student's schedule.
- Students can choose elective courses to round out a potential lack of work experience.
- An associate degree can help provide an introduction to the field, and assist individuals who plan to further their education with a bachelor's degree.
Coursework can help prepare students for professional certifications recognized by the medical transcription community.
Medical Transcription Course Descriptions
While training programs vary in their approach to teaching medical transcription, many share a common core curriculum. The following are some courses that may be found in typical training programs:
- Business English: A foundation in grammar, spelling and style for workplace-appropriate communication. Students can use this training to compose documentation for insurance reimbursements and patient care communications.
- Human Anatomy and Physiology: Exposes students to medical issues and parts of the body to aid them in identifying these terms when noted by healthcare professionals. This context could reduce the amount of time future professionals require to verify their transcriptions.
- Medical Terminology: Introduces students to common healthcare language and shorthand, as professionals need to understand verbal notes from doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.
- Medical Transcription: Offers training with professional procedures and specialized equipment, helping students learn to convert audio recordings or live speech into accurate documents.
- Word Processing: Classes explore how to manage, edit and properly store electronic documents. Advanced training may include exposure to version control features that enable professionals to track changes to documents, a required skill among some employers.
Medical Transcription Specialties
The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity notes that some transcriptionists specialize in a specific medical specialty, such as radiology or pathology. Students can also find specialized training to help prepare for areas such as these:
- Hospital medical transcription
- Real-time medical transcription
- Remote medical transcription
The national average wage in May 2012 for medical transcriptionists was higher in medical and diagnostic laboratories than in general medical and surgical hospitals or doctors' offices, the BLS notes. Wages may vary according to qualifications and other factors.
Related Career Options
A degree in medical transcription may assist graduates interested in career avenues outside of traditional transcriptionist positions. These can include career paths such as the following:
- Court Reporter: Capture word-for-word transcripts of legal or government proceedings
- Health Information Technician: Maintain quality and security of patient health records at a hospital or in a physician's private practice
- Medical Assistant: Perform administrative and clinical tasks and other daily operations in doctors' offices
Links to Sources and Associations