When a doctor or other health professional dictates information about a patient, medical transcriptionists are the ones who take that recorded segment and turn it into text, which then winds up in the patient's permanent medical records. Medical transcriptionists use speech recognition technology to edit and review medical documents, interpret medical terminology, download audio files that they then translate into text, and do other related work to ensure that a patient's medical file is up-to-date.
Medical transcription specializations
Medical transcriptionists can choose to specialize in certain areas or fields of work. For instance, a medical transcriptionist might choose to work in one particular area of medicine, such as pathology, radiology, emergency room care or surgical care. These are typically known as Level 1. Level 2 medical transcriptionists have the training to move from one specialty to another with ease, handling medical records from all sides of the health care spectrum. Medical transcriptionists can choose their path with the proper amount of education and the right certifications.
Medical transcription certifications and degrees
Beginning a career in medical transcription requires completion of either a one-year certificate program or a two-year associate degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov). These programs are offered through technical schools, vocational schools and community colleges. Once a medical transcriptionist has earned a degree, they can broaden their employment horizons with certification.
The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity offers several certifications:
- Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS). This certification is designed for those who are recent graduates, have less than two years of experience in acute care, and are working in a single-specialty environment, such as radiology or private practice. The credential is good for three years; renewal requires a fresh examination or a recredentialing course.
- Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS). Those who are RHDS certified and who want to boost their employment opportunities can earn their CHDS. This is for those who have a minimum of two years of experience in acute-care transcription. The credential is good for three years, and recertification requires a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education credits during that three-year cycle.
Those who have maintained their credentials throughout their career and choose to leave the profession can earn the CHDS-R or the RHDS-R. The "R" designation stands for "retired." This can be helpful in showing future employers a strong history of keeping their credentials up-to-date.
Those with a very active, successful career can apply for the AHDI Fellow Designation. This is open to those who have earned their RHDS or CHDS, have an active AHDI membership, and have completed certain knowledge requirements over a five-year period. This credential is perfect for the medical transcriptionist who is at the top of their game and at the pinnacle of their profession.
Medical transcriptionist salary and career outlook
The work of medical transcriptionists is expected to grow by 8 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the BLS. Increased access to medical care for patients and a higher number of tests and procedures ensure that medical transcriptionists remain in high demand. However, impressive advances in speech recognition software might limit employment growth in the field.
According to Projections Central, there are some states where the demand for medical transcriptionists is exploding. Those in the following states might see the best job opportunities:
- Utah: 27.7 percent
- Indiana: 23.9 percent
- Colorado: 22.6 percent
- Alaska: 22 percent
- Tennessee: 17.3 percent
The BLS reported a national median annual income of $34,590 for medical transcriptionists in 2013. The lowest 10 percent made up to $22,750 per year, while the highest ten percent brought home at least $47,960.
Those who are interested in medical transcription should be able to find the education they need through community colleges, vocational schools and technical schools. There is no time like the present to begin working toward the degree or certification that has the potential to lead to a medical transcription position.
Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity, http://www.ahdionline.org/
Medical Transcriptionist, Florida Health Careers, http://www.flahec.org/hlthcareers/TRANSCRI.HTM
Medical transcriptionist, Long Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central, https://www.projectionscentral.com/Home/Index
Medical Transcriptionists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes319094.htm
Medical Transcriptionists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-transcriptionists.htm#tab-1