If you've been researching legitimate work-from-home careers that you can get into without years and years of schooling, you've probably run across medical transcription.
You can become a medical transcriptionist in under a year and it's common to perform medical transcript work from home, so it often gets mentioned as a side hustle or full-time WFH job.
What Does a Medical Transcriptionist Do?
You've heard the joke about the doctor's handwriting, yeah? Or maybe you've just squinted at an old-school subscription and hoped your pharmacist would have better luck.
Thankfully, these days medical records are largely electronic and standardized, but it's possible you've never considered how they get that way.
Here's how it works:
- Doctors dictate their notes as audio recordings or enter them directly into an electronic health record (EHR) system
- Medical transcriptionists turn audio recordings into accurately written documents with the help of speech-to-text software
- Medical coders classify diagnoses, procedures, and other clinical data into standardized coding systems.
- EHR specialists manage the system to ensure data security and patient confidentiality, send and receive data to/from other EHR systems, generate reports from the EHR data, and more.
At the end of the day, no one has to read doctors' scribble, billing and records transfer are easier, and it even becomes possible to do broad analyses of medical trends and patient care.
How To Become A Medical Transcriptionist
Medical transcription requires specific training because you need a foundation of anatomy, medicine, and clinical terminology. Without that knowledge, it's easy to make mistakes – and mistakes in medical records can be a disaster.
That's why most employers require candidates to have a medical transcription certification as proof that you've been trained and achieved a certain level of competence.
There are two major medical transcriber certificates you can earn. If you're fresh out of transcription training or are early in your career, you'll want to start with becoming a Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS). An RHDS typically focuses on a single type of healthcare. After two years of work experience, you're eligible to take an exam to become a Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS). A CHDS works in advanced care or covers multiple specialties.
Is Medical Transcription a Good Career Path?
Despite the chance to do medical transcriptioning at home, this is unfortunately a terrible time to start a career as a medical transcriptionist.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for medical transcriptionists are projected to decline 7% over the coming decade.
It's a dying field, especially in relation to other healthcare support occupations, which the BLS predicts will grow 16%.
There are a few reasons for this. Voice recognition and speech-to-text technology have improved dramatically, and as EHR systems became the norm, many doctors now enter their notes directly into their records system. Medical transcriptionists just aren't as vital as they used to be.
Luckily, there's a related and similar role that we already mentioned that has a better outlook: medical coding, or medical coding and billing.
Medical Transcription vs Medical Coding
Medical transcriptionist and coding jobs have a lot of things in common, including many of the aspects that drew you to medical transcription in the first place. However, they have some key differences that make medical coding a better bet for your future.
Medical Transcriptionist & Coding Similarities
Like medical transcription, medical coding has a low entry barrier – no college degree necessary. Both require professional certifications that can be earned online in well under a year.
If medical transcriptioning from home was a major draw, you should know that medical coding is an increasingly remote job. You may need to pay some dues in an office early in your career, but even that may be changing as a result of the pandemic.
Medical transcription and coding also appeal to similar personality types. If you're an introvert with a strong affinity for logical decision-making and categorizing things according to rules, becoming a medical coder may suit you just as well as transcription work.
Job Outlook for Medical Transcription vs Medical Coding
The BLS forecasts a much better job outlook for medical coders than medical transcriptionists. In fact, coding jobs are growing at roughly the same rate transcription is shrinking. The BLS estimates 9% growth by 2030, just a little faster than the average of 8% for all jobs.
Artificial intelligence is already playing a role by making coding work easier and faster, but there's a fair amount of discretion that means humans probably won't get replaced altogether. Additionally, while medical billing might be on the chopping block with healthcare reform, medical coding is now entwined with records transfers and big data analysis as well. Coding work is here to stay.
Salary for Medical Transcription vs Medical Coding
Here's the cherry on top: as a whole, medical coders also get paid more than medical transcriptionists.
According to the BLS, the median annual pay for transcriptionists is $35,270. There's also a relatively small pay range, so you won't see much more money as you gain experience. Most medical transcriptionist salaries fall between $21,790 and $55,220 a year.
For medical coders, not only is the median pay higher, the potential to earn more money as you advance is greater as well.
The BLS puts the median annual wage of medical records and health information specialists at $45,240, which is consistent with estimates specific to medical coders from other sites. Most medical coder salaries range from $30,000 and $70,000.
You have the potential for greater earnings and advancement by earning specialty certifications or climbing the ladder to compliance auditing and other related administrative roles.
How to Become a Medical Coding Specialist
First of all, it's worth considering whether you want to do only medical coding or whether you want a hybrid medical coding and billing role. That decision will somewhat impact your training and job search needs.
There are a few major certification systems to choose between for these roles: the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC), American Health Information Association (AHIMA), and National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
The credential you pick generally matters more late in your career than at the beginning, but it's worth looking at job listings to see what the employers you're interested in require.
Either way, the fastest way to get to work in the field is to earn the right coding and/or billing certification. You can take your training online and start gaining job experience in less than a year. Look for training programs that prepare you for well-respected certifications. They should cover the three major coding systems you'll use in your job: CPT, ICD, and HCPCS.
We offer a few online training programs that fit the bill. If you're interested in billing and coding, check out our Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS) training program. We can also prepare you to earn the AAPC's Certified Professional Coder (CPC) credential.
You'll be able to study anywhere with an internet connection in your own time, and your tuition includes your exam registration fees and a laptop you get to keep. If you're a military spouse, you may even be able to pay for your training with a DOD grant. Get started today!