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Medical Transcriptionists - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
With experience, medical transcriptionists can advance to supervisory positions, home-based work, editing, consulting, or teaching. Some become owners of medical transcription businesses. With additional education or training, some become medical records and health information technicians, medical coders, or medical records and health information administrators.

Employment
Medical transcriptionists held about 105,200 jobs in 2008. About 36 percent worked in hospitals and another 23 percent worked in offices of physicians. Others worked for business support services; medical and diagnostic laboratories; outpatient care centers; offices of physical, occupational, and speech therapists; and offices of audiologists.

Job Outlook
Employment of medical transcriptionists is projected to grow about as fast as the average; job opportunities should be good, especially for those who are certified.

Job Growth
Employment of medical transcriptionists is projected to grow by 11 percent from 2008 to 2018, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand for medical transcription services will continue to be spurred by a growing and aging population. Older age groups receive proportionally greater numbers of medical tests, treatments, and procedures that require documentation. A high level of demand for transcription services also will be sustained by the continued need for electronic documentation that can be shared easily among providers, third-party payers, regulators, consumers, and health information systems. Growing numbers of medical transcriptionists will be needed to amend patients' records, edit documents from speech recognition systems, and identify discrepancies in medical reports.

Contracting out transcription work overseas and advancements in speech recognition technology are not expected to significantly reduce the need for well-trained medical transcriptionists. Outsourcing transcription work abroad—to countries such as India, Pakistan, Philippines, Barbados, and Canada—has grown more popular as transmitting confidential health information over the Internet has become more secure; however, the demand for overseas transcription services is expected only to supplement the demand for well-trained domestic medical transcriptionists. In addition, reports transcribed by overseas medical transcription services usually require editing for accuracy by domestic medical transcriptionists before they meet U.S. quality standards.

Speech recognition technology allows physicians and other health professionals to dictate medical reports to a computer, which immediately creates an electronic document. In spite of the advances in this technology, the software has been slow to grasp and analyze the human voice, the English language, and the medical vernacular with all its diversity. As a result, there will continue to be a need for skilled medical transcriptionists to identify and appropriately edit the inevitable errors created by speech recognition systems and to create a final document.

Job opportunities will be good, especially for those who are certified. Hospitals will continue to employ a large percentage of medical transcriptionists, but job growth will be in other industries. An increasing demand for standardized records should result in rapid employment growth in physicians' offices, especially in large group practices.

Earnings
Wage-and-salary medical transcriptionists had median hourly wages of $15.41 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $13.02 and $18.55. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.76, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $21.81.

Compensation arrangements for medical transcriptionists vary. Some are paid on the basis of the number of hours they work or the number of lines they transcribe. Others receive a base pay per hour, with incentives for extra production. Employees of transcription services and independent contractors almost always receive production-based pay. Independent contractors earn more than do transcriptionists who work for others, but independent contractors have higher expenses than their corporate counterparts, receive no benefits, and may face a higher risk of termination than do wage-and-salary transcriptionists.

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