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Medical Transcriptionist

Job Outlook: -3% (Decline)

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What Medical Transcriptionists Do About this section

medical transcriptionists image
Medical transcriptionists review medical reports for accuracy.

Medical transcriptionists, sometimes referred to as healthcare documentation specialists, use electronic devices to convert voice recordings from physicians and other healthcare workers into formal reports. Transcriptionists also may edit medical records for accuracy and return documents for review and approval.

Duties

Medical transcriptionists typically do the following:

  • Listen to the recorded dictation of a physician or other healthcare worker
  • Interpret and transcribe the dictation for medical reports, such as patient histories, discharge summaries, and physical examinations
  • Review and edit drafts prepared by speech recognition software, making sure that the transcription is accurate, complete, and consistent in style
  • Translate medical abbreviations and jargon into the appropriate long form
  • Identify inconsistencies, errors, and missing information in a report that could compromise patient care
  • Submit reports to physicians and other healthcare providers for review and approval
  • Follow patient confidentiality guidelines and legal documentation requirements
  • Enter medical reports into electronic health records (EHR) systems

Medical transcriptionists use a variety of equipment to produce reports. The most common is speech recognition technology, which involves specialized software that automatically prepares an initial draft of a report. The transcriptionist then listens to the voice file and reviews the draft for accuracy, identifying any errors and editing the report, as necessary. A less common technology requires these workers to use audio-playback equipment for listening to and transcribing dictation. Transcriptionists also use word-processing and other software to prepare the transcripts, as well as medical reference materials when needed.

Medical transcriptionists must be familiar with medical terminology, anatomy, and physiology. Additionally, they must have knowledge of English grammar in order to ensure that their transcriptions are correct. Transcriptionists’ ability to understand the healthcare worker's recording, to correctly transcribe that information, and to identify inaccuracies in the transcript is critical to preventing ineffective or even harmful treatment.

Medical transcriptionists who work in physicians’ offices may have other duties, such as answering phones and greeting patients.

Work Environment About this section

Medical transcriptionists
Medical transcriptionists may receive dictation and submit drafts electronically.

Medical transcriptionists held about 59,600 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of medical transcriptionists were as follows:

Administrative and support services 43%
Offices of physicians 25
Hospitals; state, local, and private 12
Self-employed workers 5
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 2

Administrative and support services includes companies that provide transcription services and temporary help firms.

Medical transcriptionists may work from home, receiving dictation and submitting drafts electronically. Their work may be stressful because they need to ensure that reports are accurate and completed within a quick turnaround time.

Work Schedules

Most medical transcriptionists are full time, but part-time work is common. Medical transcriptionists who work from home may work outside typical business hours and may have flexibility in determining their schedules.

How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist About this section

Medical transcriptionists
Medical transcription programs may be offered online by vocational schools, community colleges, and career institutes.

Medical transcriptionists typically need postsecondary education that leads to a certificate. Prospective medical transcriptionists must know basic medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, and rules of grammar. Some choose to become certified.

Education

Employers may prefer to hire transcriptionists who have completed postsecondary education in medical transcription. Medical transcription programs may be offered online as well as in person by vocational schools, community colleges, and career institutes. They vary in length but typically may be completed in less than 1 year; programs that lead to an associate's degree may take longer.

Programs typically include coursework in anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, laws relating to healthcare documentation, and English grammar and punctuation. These programs may include the opportunity to gain experience through supervised transcription. Prospective transcriptionists who are familiar with medical terminology from working in other healthcare occupations, such as nursing assistants or medical secretaries, may become proficient through refresher courses and training.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although certification is not required, some medical transcriptionists choose to become certified. For example, the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity offers the Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS) and the Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS) certifications. Both certifications require passing an exam and are valid for a specified number of years. In order to recertify, individuals must earn continuing education credits.

The RHDS certification is for recent graduates with little experience who work in a single specialty environment, such as a clinic or a physician’s office. The CHDS certification is for transcriptionists who currently hold the RHDS designation. In addition, CHDS candidates must have a specified number of years of experience in acute care, including experience handling dictation in various medical specialties.

Important Qualities

Computer skills. Medical transcriptionists must know how to operate electronic health records (EHR) systems and should be comfortable using software to prepare reports.

Critical-thinking skills. Medical transcriptionists must assess medical reports and correct any inaccuracies and inconsistencies in finished drafts.

Listening skills. Medical transcriptionists must pay attention to hear and interpret the intended meaning of dictations.

Time-management skills. Medical transcriptionists must organize their schedules well because they may need to produce transcriptions under tight deadlines.

Writing skills. Medical transcriptionists need a good understanding of English grammar in order to ensure that transcribed reports are correct.

Pay About this section

Medical Transcriptionists

Median annual wages, May 2021

Total, all occupations

$45,760

Other healthcare support occupations

$37,370

Medical transcriptionists

$30,100

 

The median annual wage for medical transcriptionists was $30,100 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,810, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $48,190.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for medical transcriptionists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Medical and diagnostic laboratories $46,150
Hospitals; state, local, and private 38,360
Offices of physicians 36,750
Administrative and support services 29,120

Some medical transcriptionists are paid based on the volume of transcription they produce. Others are paid an hourly rate or an annual salary.

Most medical transcriptionists are full time, but part-time work is common. Medical transcriptionists who work from home may work outside typical business hours and have some flexibility in determining their schedules.

Job Outlook About this section

Medical Transcriptionists

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Other healthcare support occupations

12%

Total, all occupations

5%

Medical transcriptionists

-7%

 

Employment of medical transcriptionists is projected to decline 7 percent from 2021 to 2031.

Despite declining employment, about 9,300 openings for medical transcriptionists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Technological advances in speech recognition and electronic health records (EHR) software allow physicians to document some information in the moment, reducing the need for medical transcriptionists. In addition, these technologies increase medical transcriptionists' productivity, allowing more transcription by fewer workers.

Meanwhile, as healthcare providers seek to cut costs, some will contract out transcription services and not do in-house transcription.

Employment projections data for medical transcriptionists, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Medical transcriptionists

31-9094 59,600 55,700 -7 -3,900 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about medical transcriptionists, certification and for a list of accredited medical transcription programs, visit

Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity

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