How to Get Started
in Medical Transcription
Medical transcription can be a great way for you to make money and have an enjoyable career. Once you learn all the basics and practice, practice, practice, there are almost limitless possibilities as to how much money you can make. Whether you choose to work for yourself or want the security of working at a doctor's office, hospital, or a transcription service, you still need to start at the beginning.
Where do you start? Depending on where you are in life and how much time you choose to devote to learning, there are a host of options available. The major ones are:
1. Enroll in college as a full-time student. If you can devote the time to study on a full-time basis, this situation will give you the most benefit. Money could be a hindrance to this mode of study, so we'll review the other options.
2. Enroll in a college that offers distance-learning programs and study at home utilizing online courses. This is only a viable option if you are a highly motivated self starter who can stay on task and ignore the distractions around you. You have the benefit of deadlines with online study programs. The cost is less but still might be prohibitive, depending on your financial situation.
3. Self study. This option will only work for a few extremely dedicated people. You can work at your own pace while working a full-time job to support yourself; however, it is too easy to leave the studying until later because you're too tired, want to watch television, go to a movie, etc. If you are able to stay on task and set realistic goals for yourself, this is by far the cheapest and least life-disrupting way to learn.
4. Work in an entry-level position in a doctor's office or hospital in a learn-as-you-go situation. Outside of a school situation, plunging yourself into the work force in the career field that you've chosen is a great way to get started. The down side of this situation is that you could be making near-minimum wages for the first couple of years.
5. Apply to a transcription service that will teach you the basics for free. There are a few large medical transcription companies around the country that will accept you into their program, give you all the training for free, and then put you to work at a decent starting salary. If you are good at spelling, word retention, and a fast typist, it should be fairly easy to get accepted by one of these companies. Their courses are generally set up as intense, high-stress, fast-paced learning. The courses usually last a few weeks and you can expect to do more studying than sleeping during that time. Diving into learning in one of these programs is a great way to learn fast and get on the way to making good money. Some of the companies pay a salary but many of them pay on a commission basis. You can make decent money as a salaried employee but you have the greatest potential for making lots of money being paid on commission. You will, of course, start out making less money because you'll be in "learning" mode for a few months after your initial training has ended. After that, you can expect to gradually make more money until you reach your maximum potential. A well-trained, experienced medical transcriptionist can easily make $45,000 a year and more.
The best and easiest ways to increase your earning potential is to increase your typing speed and learn macros. By typing at a high speed with 99.9 percent accuracy and utilizing macros, you can see a ten-fold increase in your earnings.
What are macros? A simple and highly effective tool is the use of short-cut keystrokes when typing into a word processor. When you type the short-cut keys, normally 2 - 5 characters, then hit the space bar, the intended word or phrase is automatically displayed without you wasting precious seconds typing out the entire sequence. Confused? Here are some examples of medical jargon that is typed in almost every chart with the corresponding macro on the right:
admitting physician = ap
patient presented with = ppw
history = hs
past medical history = pmh
differential diagnosis = dd
exam = x
x-ray = xr
Those are a few examples of thousands of macros in use. You can see by the examples above how many keystrokes and seconds can be saved. Macros can be set up for complete sentences as well as entire paragraphs. When the doctor uses the same opening paragraph chart after chart, you can save time and effort by hitting a couple of keystrokes and having the entire first paragraph displayed without you typing every character. The more macros you use, the faster you type the report, and the more money you make. The macros are programmed into the word processing program used by the company you work for. A few of the macros you learn at one company will be different if you change companies. While there is no industry standard, only a few macros will be different in a medical establishment. If you are self-employed and use your own word processor, you will need to set up the macros yourself. This is a very important part of transcribing successfully and you will benefit greatly by setting up and learning macros from the very beginning.
Even though you'll be gaining experience, developing your listening skills, and learning many, many new words, you will want to obtain copies of medical word books that pertain to the specialties of the doctors you're transcribing for. Don't worry about buying all brand-new word books. I quickly learned that many of the old, out-of-print word books contained obscure words that had been deleted from the newer books. The older doctors will continue to use words they're familiar with even after those words go out of style. My older books, bought on the used market, saved many headaches for my colleages and me.
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