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Medical Transcription Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Medical Transcription/Healthcare Documentation?

A: Virtually every encounter that takes place between a health care provider (physician) and his or her patient must be put into written documentation. Generally, the information is recorded either onto a digital voice processing system through a phone line. The dictated information is then listened to by a medical transcriptionist/healthcare documentation specialist through a headset and foot pedal who transcribes the report into either a hard copy or an electronic medical record using a computer and a word processor.

Q: Does it require training?

A: Absolutely. It is a highly specialized field requiring a very strong medical background, an in-depth knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, disease processes, and pharmacology. Those who learn to do it successfully generally are also good spellers, have good keyboard skills, and excellent researching skills. Speed increases with training and experience.

Q: How does your program work?

A: It is a home-based on-line distance learning program that follows the usual college semesters – fall (midAug.-midDec.), spring (midJan.-midMay), summer (June-July). First you will start out with Medical Terminology, which is a prerequisite to all other courses, and Introduction to Healthcare Documentation. Then you will proceed with Anatomy and Physiology, Healthcare Documentation 1 and either Pharmacology or Interpreting Healthcare Records. The transcription is actual physician dictation (not actors dictating medical reports). You will transcribe beginning, intermediate, and advanced transcription. You will do about 40 hours of dictation which provides you a great deal of experience with dictation. The last semester includes Pathophysiology, Healthcare Documentation 2, and either Pharmacology or Interpreting Healthcare Records. Beginning Fall 2013, students will also complete a 150 hour internship their last semester.

Q: How long does it take to complete this program?

A: It will take as little as 3 semesters to complete the coursework for the healthcare documentation certificate. It can, however, be spread out over more semesters. The more time and effort you put into it, the more you will get out of it.

Q: Is this field for me?

A: If you have at least average keyboard skills (35 words per minute – or preferably more), are already a good speller and have a good grasp of English grammar, are eager to learn, and retain what you've learned, this could definitely be for you.

Q: Why should I look into this field?

A: A: Consider first and foremost that it is a major career in one of the top economic industries - healthcare. Then consider the time and money savings by training and working at home, gasoline, day care expense, general reduction of the overhead of daily living because you are at work instead of stuck in traffic, wasting the most precious commodity you have: time. And the best reason, you set your own hours and have more time for family and friends.

The medical industry historically has been virtually immune to recession - the demand for medical services, and therefore the demand for all related products and services, such as medical transcription, coding, and billing has never diminished. Security to that extent is difficult to find. The medical industry has experienced more steady and concrete growth of any North American industry that actually has economic impact on a national scale.

Q: How much is tuition?

A: Tuition for out-of-state and out-of-district students is the SAME as in-district students. Students will pay approximately $4,205 for all of the coursework in the medical transcription certificate. This is not due all at once. Courses are paid for individually on a semester basis. Financial aid is available. Please contact (217) 875-7211 ext. 272 for more information on financial aid.

Q: How are medical transcriptionists/healthcare documentation specialists paid?

A: You can be paid by the hour working for a hospital or clinic, or by the line working for a big or small company or a physician’s office. Working by the hour is beneficial in the beginning when you are still learning new dictators and formatting. Working by the line allows you to be rewarded according to your own ability and dedication, so your ultimate success is up to you. Your earning potential is entirely in your hands, enabling you to take charge of your future.

Q: What about voice recognitions systems? Will they hurt the aspiring healthcare documentation specialist?

A: Voice recognition systems are often discussed as an imminent threat to this profession. This has been true since 1989. Despite millions and millions of investment into the technology, it has never materialized to effectively eliminate healthcare documentation specialists. The vocabulary of medicine with the ability to combine Latin words is virtually infinite. No voice-based memory thus far developed has been remotely capable of addressing that with any precision, let alone the exigencies of a voice with a cold (not recognized by the software), set maximum speech input speeds (mostly too slow) so the dictator wastes a lot of professional (and expensive) time. Those that have been implemented, require healthcare documentation specialists to edit the errors and critically think through the process. We don't see much of a threat from our observation and research since these professionals are still need to listen, interpret, and edit the voice-recognized transcription. There has been a shift in roles - maybe more time is spent editing than transcribing – but there hasn’t been a huge decrease in the number of positions because software can’t think.

Q: Can I really make any money at home?

A: By developing this skill, yes, you certainly can. In the beginning, most healthcare documentation specialists get paid somewhere around $12.50 an hour or 0.06-0.08 cents per line. The average healthcare documentation specialist transcribes about 200 lines per hour. High end healthcare documentation specialists using word expanders and macros (and good keyboard skills) can do 300 or 400 LPH.

Q: How can I learn to do it?

A: I have over 20 years of medical transcription experience. The courses I developed are the culmination of all those years of training in the real world. I hand-grade the transcription and give a lot of helpful feedback to help achieve well-developed graduates. Richland is unique too in that we have a number of clients who await our successful graduates for employment. Many graduates have been hired before finishing their coursework.

Q: What equipment do I need?

A: For the training, a computer with Word, the ability to get onto and surf the internet (DSL or cable modem preferred) and a good knowledge of downloading software and saving, attaching, and/or moving files. As you take the courses, you can look up what books and supplies you need for the classes. If you join AHDI (Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity) as a student, which is at a discounted price of $55 a year, you will get discounts on books, credentialing exams, and many other items along with medical transcription journals that help continue your education. For more information, visit www.ahdionline.org

Q: Do I need to be certified?

A: AHDI provides 2 certifications – RMT and CMT certification. Graduates can sit for the RMT exam after graduation but the CMT exam requires you to have 2 years of acute care hospital experience in order to take the exam. The RMT exam will help you become employed over someone who does not have the certification and with the CMT, you can work for anyone – sometimes even without be tested. You can read all about the certifications on AHDI’s website. It is not required that you become certified, but it can only benefit you.

Q: Do you provide placement or otherwise provide work?

A: Richland can greatly assist you in finding work. Employers constantly contact us for successful candidate applications. We provide those company sites to you. Only students who work hard and receive good grades will be referred to employers.

Q: Are your programs accredited or approved through AHDI?

A: Yes. We are approved through AHDI. All of our coursework can be transferred to other colleges as well.

Q: So how do I get started?

A: Start the registration process by downloading an application. For more information, call Stuart Coon, the program advisor, at 217-875-7211 ext. 280 or e-mail him at scoon@richland.edu.

Q: Anything else?

A: Only this: If you want a new and specialized career that is in great demand, one that has been immune to recession and other economic and industry fluctuations, one that can be easily developed into a home business, and get you the independence you want, then look no further. If you've shopped the others, and hopefully you have, you know the most cost-effective way by far to get on track in this exciting field is with us. Just do it!

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