Transcribing medical notes from your kitchen table. Being a stay-at-home mom and a breadwinner. Sipping coffee and sporting pajamas while also supporting your family.
These are the images that past nighttime television advertisements have left us about the opportunities awaiting those interested in medical transcription jobs.
But the reality is that work-from-home opportunities are being phased out of healthcare, says Dr. Christian Wright, health sciences dean at Rasmussen College.
In the past, people sought out these jobs for a career in a reliable industry with the flexibility of working from home. But advances in voice recognition software like Dragon Dictate are slowly changing the landscape of medical transcription jobs.
In fact, there was a 56 percent decrease in job postings for medical transcriptionists from 2007 to 2013.* And so far in 2014, there have only been about 600 posting for the entire country.
Don’t worry though! There is still need for medical transcription work in the new world of healthcare … but if you want to be employable you just need to broaden your skill set.
Here is what the experts say you need to know.
Medical transcription job trends
Medical transcriptionists work with healthcare professionals to translate details from patient visits into digital medical records. In the past, like 50 years ago past, a medical practitioner would dictate his or her thought process for diagnosing a patient’s visit to the transcriber, who would use shorthand to record it into a paper record. Now it’s more often a person taking notes on behalf of a doctor or other healthcare professional.
Enter the modern influx of electronic health records, fancy voice recognition software and new multivariate medical coding systems, and the picture gets a little more complex.
A brave new world
Some doctors still prefer to dictate directly to a traditional medical transcriptionist while others are entering the brave new digital world. “I continue to dictate because I’ve found challenges with the software,” says Dr. Barbara Bergin, certified orthopedic surgeon at Texas Orthopedics.
She concedes, however, that they have significantly scaled back the number of internal transcriptionists. Bergin’s office staffed as many as six in-house transcriptionists in the past, but now they are down to one.
But if you are a medical transcriptionist, don’t run away, urges Bergin.
When it comes to the software, she personally finds the challenges don’t always outweigh the benefits right now. Although her husband (also a physician) prefers to use Dragon, he spends around three hours every evening editing his notes, she says.
Bergin’s experience in staff reduction is reflective of an overall trend toward outsourcing medical transcription jobs—a phenomenon Health Business Group (HBG) documented in its 2013 clinical documentation whitepaper.
This will only continue as paper tracking goes away. The study found that only 5-8 percent of records will be paper-based by 2016, and the majority of transcription jobs will be given to off-shore medical transcription service organizations.
As for the offshoring trend, it might be worth safeguarding yourself by adding some additional tools to your belt. It is still worthwhile for health sciences students to get some exposure to transcription, says David Williams, president of Health Business Group. But he believes skills considered more critical will include coding and leveraging technology so students can diversify the work they can do for employers.
How to prepare for a medical transcription job in this new world
One option for students that are interested in medical documentation is an associate degree in healthcare administration. These programs typically include courses expanding across all of these topics with key curriculum units in medical transcription, ICD coding, electronic health records and medical office procedures.
By including transcription as a component of your overall education you will improve your marketability as jobs continue to get squeezed. In fact, medical administrative positions in particular are projected to grow by 22 percent—around 252,500 projected openings!—through 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
To sum up …
There will continue to be a need for professionals with an understanding of medical terminology and quick typing skills to aid practitioners with patient records. Software improvements aren’t perfect, and as medical coding requirements get more comprehensive, physicians will increasingly need specialized help with the documentation process.
Whether you have been in the industry for a while or you are just starting to consider medical transcription jobs, your best bet is to diversify your skill set with the administrative and coding talents that are needed across healthcare organizations.
Check out our blog post on healthcare administration vs. health information technology if you need some help deciding where to focus your studies. If the idea of medical coding intimidates you, don’t worry, it may not be as challenging as you think.
For more information about the programs at Rasmussen College, read about our degrees on the School of Health Sciences home page.
*Source: Burning-Glass.com (analysis of job postings for “medical transcriptionists” historical trends, Jan. 1, 2007 - Dec. 31, 2013)