Ten Myths about Medical Transcription

There’s a lot of misinformation floating around about the ins and outs of a medical transcription career. Some of it comes from honest misconceptions; the rest comes from training companies that want your money.

Medical transcription (MT) is interesting and challenging. You can train from home and work from practically anywhere you can get an Internet connection. There are opportunities to work nontraditional hours, part-time or full-time, as an employee or as self-employed independent contractor. MT has a lot going for it. It isn’t, however, a free ticket to prosperity with no strings attached.

Medical transcriptionists make $50,000 a year working from home

This particularly alluring myth frequently appears in advertisements promising to take you from zero to medical transcriptionist in a matter of months — just come to our free seminar to find out how! Don’t believe it, and don’t sign up for training (or even attend a seminar) from any company that makes such a claim.

Are there medical transcriptionists who make $50,000 a year? Yes, but they’re few and far between. A quick trip to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website reveals that the average annual salary for a full-time medical transcriptionist is closer to $34,000.

Medical transcriptionists can work and take care of the kids at the same time

If you’re picturing yourself tapping away at the keyboard while your little darling plays quietly at your feet, pinch yourself and wake up! There’s no way you can transcribe medical reports and take care of children at the same time.

MT work requires intense concentration and undivided attention, two things that aren’t compatible with supervising little ones (or much of anything else). If you have young children at home, you’ll need to arrange for childcare during your work hours or work while they’re sleeping.

Medical transcriptionists just need to type really fast

The ability to type at warp speed is a great asset, but it isn’t an automatic ticket to success as an medical transcriptionist. The things that really make the difference are largely mental:

  • An inquisitive mind and love of language so you can learn (and keep learning) all those medical terms

  • An independent, pressure-resistant mindset

  • The ability and motivation to concentrate intently for extended periods of time

Medical transcriptionists need little or no training

Unless you have formal medical transcription training, your résumé will never make it into the “to interview” stack. The training must be from a recognized, reputable source, such as a community college program or well-established medical transcription school. Otherwise, you’re toast.

Plan on spending a bare minimum of nine months preparing for your new career. You’ll study anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, formatting of the different report types, and many more skills you may not anticipate needing but definitely will. When you graduate, you’ll have that crucial formal training to include on your résumé and the know-how to do the job.

Speech recognition technology will make medical transcriptionists obsolete

Speech recognition technology (SRT) is in widespread use as a way (in theory) for medical facilities to cut transcription costs. Working medical transcriptionists refer to it as “speech wreck,” because the results sometimes have more in common with a multicar pileup than a quality healthcare document. Under ideal dictation conditions, SRT can do a decent job, but it takes very little to send things awry.

Despite its substantial shortcomings, SRT seems to be here to stay. Because the results of SRT are unreliable and require constant supervision, it now figures into what medical transcriptionists do on a daily basis. Speech recognition has added a fresh twist to the ever-evolving MT profession, not made it obsolete.

Electronic health records will eliminate the need for medical transcriptionists

This is only true in the minds and marketing materials of people who sell EHR software. Somewhere along the way, the idea of digitizing medical information seems to have become equated with transforming the recording of healthcare details into an entirely point-and-click process, but it’s increasingly evident that it can’t be done.

Some elements of healthcare documentation are enhanced by restricting input via check boxes and drop-down lists, but for some things, fill in the blanks just doesn’t cut it. Healthcare providers need a way to incorporate narrative observations, opinions, and conclusions — in other words, dictation.

Most medical transcription work is being outsourced overseas

Everything else seems to be going to cheaper, offshore workforces — why not medical transcription? After all, who can afford to pass up a chance to save some green? Medical transcription began going abroad in the 1990s, and more was headed that way, but then things changed.

In 2010, changes in federal laws related to protecting patient health information made compliance with federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules an even higher priority for medical transcription companies and healthcare facilities. In order to achieve tighter control over patient information, it’s being kept closer to home.

Getting certified is the best way to break into medical transcription

Any advertisement that entices you to “become a certified medical transcriptionist” is feeding you a line of hogwash. You don’t need a certification or a license to become a medical transcriptionist. There is a Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT) credential, but it’s not an entry-level kind of thing, and no training program can give it to you.

You may opt to earn it eventually, but you’ll need at least two years of experience under your belt first. Even then, you’ll have to pass a rigorous exam that will test your medical knowledge and transcription skills across multiple medical specialties.

Medical transcription is low-stress work

You may think medical transcription is a low-pressure job. How hard can it be to listen to what somebody says and type it up in a report? A lot harder than you can ever imagine until you’ve actually done it. You’ll be astounded by what comes across your headphones — guaranteed!

For starters, medical dictation often arrives amply stocked with background noise and interruptions — and don’t forget the crackers (dictators seem to frequently have a mouthful of them). It includes words you haven’t ever heard before and have no idea how to spell, especially at first. Many times, a thick foreign accent will be slathered on top. So, let’s just say the clarity isn’t always the best. . . .

Real men don’t become medical transcriptionists

Okay, maybe nobody says that, but you may get that impression when researching the field. The current crop of medical transcriptionists is overwhelmingly female, but men and women are equally capable of becoming excellent medical transcriptionists.

It’s not any harder for a man to break into the field than it is for a woman. As more men seek out work they can do from home or on a flexible schedule, they’re discovering medical transcription. Medical transcriptionist employers care how many reports you can produce, how fast, and how accurately.

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