Learn About Being a Medical Transcriber

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 10, 2019

What does a medical transcriber do?

Medical transcribers transform doctors’ dictations into written documents that convey information about patients’ health. They are responsible for updating patients’ electronic health records accurately and confidentially. Medical transcribers perform the following tasks:

  • Transcribe recordings: These healthcare professionals listen to a doctor’s recorded notes and convert them into written reports. They are responsible for performing accurate transcriptions that include all essential information and convey the doctor’s statements correctly.

  • Use speech recognition software: Many medical transcribers edit and update drafts produced by speech recognition software programs. They listen to doctors’ recordings and correct the drafts for grammar and context.

  • Translate medical terms and abbreviations: Medical transcribers work with a variety of recordings, including patient histories, discharge and examination notes and doctor referral letters. They often have to translate medical abbreviations and jargon into complete words.

  • Check reports for irregularities: After completing transcriptions, these health care professionals review their reports for errors and omissions. 

  • Update electronic health records: Many medical transcribers input their written reports into patients’ EHRs. These notes become part of patients’ permanent health records.

  • Understand patient confidentiality requirements: Because medical transcribers work with personal information, they must understand and abide by relevant legal and confidentiality requirements. They are responsible for keeping their reports private and secure.

Average salary

In most cases, medical transcribers work full-time schedules. Their certifications, experience and location can affect their earning potential.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $15.28 per hour

  • Some salaries range from $7.25 to $34.80 per hour

Medical transcriber requirements

Medical transcribers generally need post-secondary education in medical transcription, and many also have a professional certification.

Education

Employers usually require medical transcriber candidates to complete a post-secondary program that prepares them to work in the field. Most programs take one or two years to complete and result in a certificate or an associate degree. Aspiring medical transcribers can find online and in-person programs at community colleges and vocational schools. These programs typically include the following courses:

  • Anatomy

  • Legal and confidentiality guidelines related to health care

  • Medical terminology

  • Risk management

Training

Medical transcribers often complete on-the-job training programs once they start a new position. The length of these programs depends on the position and the employer.

Many new medical transcribers benefit from previous jobs in the healthcare field. Some medical transcribers have prior experience as one of the following:

  • Medical receptionist: Also known as medical secretaries, these professionals greet and register patients in doctors’ offices. They update patients’ records and maintain filing systems, and they understand and apply medical terminology and abbreviations.

  • Nursing assistant: These healthcare professionals assist with caring for patients in hospitals and those living in nursing homes. They are responsible for helping patients perform basic activities like bathing and eating, moving and transferring patients and taking vital signs.

Certifications

Many medical transcribers also pursue professional certifications. Although employers may not require these credentials, certifications allow medical transcribers to advance their skills, demonstrate their professional commitment and increase their earning potential. The most common certifications for medical transcribers include:

  • Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS): This basic credential from the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) demonstrates competence in health care documentation and is designed for recent graduates of post-secondary medical transcription programs or medical transcribers with less than two years of experience in the field. Candidates can earn the RHDS by passing a 130-question exam and can maintain the designation by retaking the exam every three years.

  • Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS): This advanced credential from the AHDI demonstrates high-level clinical knowledge and interpretive capabilities, and it is for medical transcribers who have at least two years of experience in the field. Candidates can obtain the CHDS by passing a 120-question exam. This credential lasts for three years and candidates can recertify by earning 30 continuing education credits.

Skills

To excel as a medical transcriber, you will need these skills:

  • EHR familiarity: Medical transcribers frequently update patients’ EHRs. They must know how to navigate these digital records and create notes in the correct locations while maintaining confidentiality.

  • Listening skills: To understand doctors’ notes and transcribe them accurately, medical transcribers need excellent listening skills. They must know how to process verbal information and translate it into written reports.

  • Medical terminology: Doctors often use medical jargon and abbreviation in their recordings, and medical transcribers must know these terms to do their work accurately. Most medical transcribers study terminology in post-secondary programs.

  • Time management skills: Because medical transcribers often have to complete numerous tasks in short periods, they must know how to budget time effectively to complete tasks on schedule.

  • Typing skills: To convert spoken words into written reports, medical transcribers must be able to type faster than average. Many professionals in this field can type at least 65 words per minute, and many employers test candidates’ typing speed before hiring.

Medical transcriber work environment

Medical transcribers usually work at desks, where they use computers to translate recordings and update records. They generally wear headsets to listen to diction. Most medical transcribers work in one of the following settings:

  • Health care facility**:** Some medical transcribers have desks in physicians’ offices or hospitals, where they work closely with doctors and physician assistants.

  • Third-party agency: Others are employed by agencies and work in office settings alongside other medical transcribers.

  • Home office: Some work from home, where they do their jobs remotely using their own computers and equipment.

How to become a medical transcriber

To secure a position as a medical transcriber, follow these five steps:

  1. Complete a post-secondary program: First, earn a certificate or an associate degree from a post-secondary medical transcription program. Most programs take one or two years to complete and may offer in-person or online options.

  2. Develop essential skills: To stand out as a top candidate, work on cultivating key skills. Medical transcribers must be able to type quickly and accurately, understand medical terminology and have excellent time management and listening skills.

  3. Consider professional certification: To improve your skills and increase your earning potential, you may want to earn a professional certification. Many medical transcribers have an RHDS, which is designed for recent graduates of medical transcription programs, or a CHDS, which requires two or more years of experience in the field.

  4. Create a resume: Once you have completed the essential requirements for the job, write a resume that highlights your career objective, your post-secondary education, professional certifications, prior work experience and relevant skills.

  5. Decide on your preferred work environment: Before you begin applying for jobs, think about your ideal work environment. Since medical transcribers may work in doctors’ offices, for third-party agencies or from home, you can choose the best setting for you.

Medical transcriber job description example

Lee Medical Partners is seeking a medical transcriber with at least two years of experience and a Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist credential from the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity. The candidate will be responsible for transcribing doctors’ and physician assistants’ notes regarding patient histories, treatment plans and prognoses. The successful candidate should have an advanced understanding of medical terminology, excellent listening skills and a typing speed of at least 65 WPM.

Related careers

If you are interested in learning about careers similar to that of a medical transcriber, you might also consider one of the following positions:

  • Medical biller

  • Medical receptionist

  • Medical records clerk

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