Medical transcriptionists are responsible for transcribing recordings of medical reports onto computer documents, editing as needed for clarity, proper medical terminology, and grammatical accuracy. The reports typically describe patient conditions and medical procedures and are usually dictated by physicians and other health care professionals onto tape or digital voice files.
Medical transcriptionists need to be able to understand medical lingo and must be able to translate abbreviated or shortened terms into their full form. Ideally, they should also have a good understanding of diagnostic procedures and have knowledge in physiology, anatomy and pharmacology. The job requires compliance with medical record formatting requirements and also with ethical requirements to ensure patient confidentiality.
Medical Transcriptionist Schools and Programs
The typical education requirement for medical transcriptionists is an associate degree or a certificate in medical transcription earned through one of the following:
- Community college
- Distance learning program
- Vocational school
A medical transcriptionist program is typically one year, and often includes hands-on training with real transcription assignments. Coursework typically includes material related to:
- Medical terminology
- Human anatomy
- Legal ramifications of health care documentation
- English grammar
Though formal accreditation is not required for medical transcription programs, many employers prefer to hire those whose degree or certificate has accreditation behind it. For those seeking certification, completion of an accredited program may be required. The Approval Committee for Certificate Programs (AACP), established jointly by the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), offers a voluntary accreditation which has been granted to many medical transcription programs.
As health care professionals move toward innovative software that makes transcribing easier and faster, learning all you can about computers and voice recognition technology can offer a boost for your career in the future. The technology also allows for easy transference of files.
Medical Transcriptionist Certification
The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) offers two designations for medical transcriptionists. Both are voluntary, but many employers prefer to hire someone who has earned a professional designation.
- RMT: Registered Medical Transcriptionist. Those who have fewer than two years of experience in acute care or who have just graduated from a medical transcriptionist program are eligible for this designation. Passing the AHDI Level 1 exam is a requirement to earn the RMT, as well as a minimum of 30 hours in continuing education credits over a span of three years. As an added perk, those who earn the RMT are eligible to join the Registered Apprenticeship Program, a service of the U.S. Department of Labor that includes on-the-job learning and technical instruction.
- CMT: Certified Medical Transcriptionist. Those who have more than two years of acute care experience with a wide variety of transcription experience are eligible for the CMT. It also requires a passing score on the certification exam, as well as an online class and other pertinent testing.
In addition to registration or certification, qualified applicants should have excellent hearing, a firm grasp of the English language, good grammar skills, knowledge of medical jargon and a working proficiency with computers and applicable software.
Apprenticeships for Medical Transcriptionists
In order to become a medical transcriptionist, it's usually a good idea to have some type of postsecondary training. However, there are other educational options for those interested in the field. The Medical Transcription Industry Association (MTIA), in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Labor, sponsors a Registered Apprenticeship Program for medical transcriptionists. In order to be eligible for this program, a candidate needs to have graduated from an ACCP approved program and also to have earned the RMT credential. The program offers a structured form of on-the-job learning and related technical instruction.