Is It Possible to Work-at-Home as a Medical Transcriptionist?

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First, here’s the good news: Medical transcription is a real and viable work-at-home profession. The bad news? You’ll be wading through a lot of online scams and poorly cobbled together training programs before you find the real job opportunities. For example, check out this one reviewer’s comment about futuremt.com:

medical transcription scam

Luckily, I put together several resources that you can use when deciding to train as a medical transcriptionist (MT). To begin with, let’s define what medical transcription involves as far as patient care is concerned.

What exactly is medical transcription?

When you go to the doctor, she will typically perform a routine physical or other health assessments. You may also chat with her about any health concerns you have. The doctor then leaves you in the exam room for several minutes and eventually returns with either your prescription, follow-up appointment plan, etc. What is the doctor actually doing while you get dressed and then start looking at your watch, wondering what’s keeping her all this time?

In actuality, the doctor is probably dictating her notes about your appointment into a voice recorder. These notes may be recorded on a handheld digital recorder, but more than likely they are sent through a phone/computer line connected to an in-house server. This server will later transfer that recording to a transcription service office, after which an MT will transcribe it into a document known as an EHR (electronic health record).

The state of the industry

In the past, MTs were all employed by a doctor or hospital and showed up at the office. Nowadays, with voice recordings being in digital format and saved on servers, many MTs have become independent contractors (ICs) and work from home. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, starting MTs earn roughly $16/hour or about $34K/year. Some MTs get paid by the line, so their pay rates vary greatly depending on how accurate and/or speedy they are with transcription.

These IC pay rates are still far less than the rates that employed MTs make, especially given that ICs do not obtain work benefits such as health insurance and 401(k) plans. The (possible) silver lining is that, because it costs less to hire an MT as an IC, this work-at-home field will grow and offer even more work opportunities in the future. Also, as an MT gains experience and therefore processing speed, his pay per hour or line can increase.

Finally, the Advance Healthcare Network offers an in-depth analysis of salary ranges for various health information professionals; because reported pay rates are increasing year-over-year, you could use these statistics as part of your “negotiation arsenal” when asking for a higher rate per hour or line.

What you need to get started

Theoretically, one does not need any training in order to be an MT. However, most medical offices are loathe to hire just anyone who doesn’t possess some “proven” skill set. Community colleges and vocational schools offer MT programs that take about six months to a year to complete. There are also online training programs that enable you to learn and test at home.

Let me just say that there are many, and I do mean many, online training programs out there, with every one claiming to be the best. Unfortunately, many of these programs, as the online review above attests, are not much more than shams designed to take your money.

If you really wish to find a quality MT training program, you are advised to first check out the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI); this professional organization (which used to go under the name of the American Association for Medical Transcription) reviews and approves various MT training programs (e.g., Comprehensive Medical Training program). The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) also reviews and recommends MT training programs.

For examples of MT training programs that have gotten high reviews from the AHDI and AHIMA as well as former students and employers, check out The Andrews School (top-notch) and Career Step (a decent runner up). Be forewarned; these programs are more expensive than the “normal” training programs. However, at least in the case of MT training, you do get what you pay for.

MT Certification programs

Many MTs go on to obtain certification; this step is entirely optional but highly recommended in order to improve one’s chances of finding a job. It’s a plain fact that many transcription agencies advertise MT positions that require at least two years of experience. As a result, the newly-minted MT often gets stuck in a Catch-22 situation of not having the experience to get the job to get the experience. What can she do?

To this end, there is a certification program available to MTs from ADHI that can help get them get hired with an agency even if they have no work experience. This certification program is available only to MTs that are just starting out and have less than two years of work experience. Upon completion, the MT earns the letters Registered Medical Transcriptionist, or RMT.

ADHI also offers training to become a Certified Medical Transcriptionist, or CMT. The CMT is awarded to RMT holders who have over two years of work experience.

Certification enables MT newbies to prove that they are capable in their profession and to also negotiate for a higher pay rate. If at all possible, certification is highly recommended.

MT agencies and job boards

Just like there are many MT online training programs, there are also many MT online job agencies. Some of the better known agencies include Accentus, Eight CrossingsFast Chart, M*Modal and Nuance Transcription Services.

Flexjobs.com lists numerous MT job opportunities; however, be advised that Flexjobs is a subscription-based job board. There is also a dedicated (and free!) job board intended solely for MT professionals at mtjobs.com. Finally (and with special thanks to Cynthea), there is the Yahoo! group MTStars, which offers several discussion boards about medical transcription companies and an MT job board.

12 Comments

  1. I was a medical transcriptionist until 2014 when my largest contracted client decided to use VR. I had done this job at home since 1992 so going out into the world and looking for a job was very hard. I still wish I could go back to my old schedule. I was good at my job and was able to prioritize. I guess it helped in the long run when I had to get out in the workforce. That being said, I have heard recently through the grapevine in my area (Northern California) that many physicians are finding the hours of editing to be grueling and they are considering hiring a real person to transcribe again. It is easy to insert the documents into a patient’s electronic medical record. I did it for about 7 years! I still have a very slight bit of hope!

    Reply
  2. Stephanie says:

    Is it possible to do coding from home? I have been looking into the courses for MT but after reading that you may make below minimum wage now is discouraging. Is it really like that for the most part? which is the best way to go?

    Reply
  3. Alicia Silva says:

    Has anyone heard of MedTrans Inc for Entry Level Medical Transcriptions?
    I spoke w/ a rep there, Nance. Very informative and promising. Just not sure if it’s too good to be true??

    Reply
    1. I just spoke to Nance on Monday (2/1). I’d be interested to hear what others have to say….

    2. Can you update me on what happened? I’m currently looking into MedTrans Inc as well.

  4. Cynthea Lee Rose says:

    My apology for not getting back here sooner. Here’s why I BELIEVE the pay was so low for working from home as a medical transcriptionist after 3 years experience with voice recognition report editing and transcription for very large hospital groups. The VR software used would create a profile for each individual speaker. As the transcriptionist edits more and more reports for each speaker, the profile is created. The transcriptionist in the beginning is teaching the software how to interpret the pattern of each speakers voice. If the speaker is consistent and clear in speech, the reports come out nearly perfect with close to nothing to edit. I strongly suspect that these near-perfect reports were sent to be “rubber stamped” by transcriptionists in India who worked for SO much less than American transcriptionists. What remained for American transcriptionists where the most HORRIBLE speakers and reports to correct and this is why I BELIEVE I could never make much over minimum wage. In my entire work history, I’ve never been paid so little for having to know so much…
    Can I prove this…
    NO…
    but you can go to the MT Stars message boards and get other opinions..

    Reply
  5. Halina Zakowicz says:

    Hi KDS, Thank you for visiting and updating us on M*Modal. I’ve edited my post accordingly and apologize for the oversight. Thanks again!

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  6. Esther – MModal has not filed bankruptcy at this point. You should check facts before posting. We are continuing to do business as usual.

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  7. Cynthea Lee Rose says:

    For what it’s worth, I became an at-home medical transcriptionist by taking 2 courses at my local community college. Medical Terminology, which was an online course and prerequisite for Medical Transcription, the second course I took. In my opinion, I should have also taken a grammar course, but I self-taught with watching a few education videos from Netflix. This was back in 2008 and after applying to several transcription companies, landed a job which started out with an internship-type training period of about 3 months. I worked for 3 years but for whatever reason, could not even make minimum wage. I have my ideas about why this is so by the way and subsequently quit. I cant recommend highly enough the MT Stars yahoo group for networking and seeking job opportunities. Good Luck!

    Reply
    1. Halina Zakowicz says:

      Hi Cynthea, Thanks so much for your comment! I’d be interested in hearing your reasons on why the pay was so low. I’ll also add the MTStars Yahoo group to my post. Thank you again!

  8. Medical transcription has changed a lot in the last 15 years. Now many companies have gone to voice recognition so instead of straight typing MTs are just editing files that are typed by Dragon or some other voice recognition software. This reduces the pay for MTs sometimes as low as 3 cents per line. So while medical transcription is still a legitimate way to earn from home, it is becoming increasingly harder to earn a good living from it. Coding might be a better option to pursue as there are many MTs without positions and competition is fierce for the transcription positions that are available. FYI: The companies you listed at the end of your post are transcription companies, not agencies. M Modal just filed for bankruptcy so probably wouldn’t be the best company to pursue in hopes of a position. And yes, I’m an MT and have seen many changes throughout the years.

    Reply
    1. Halina Zakowicz says:

      Hi Esther- thank you for your valuable feedback and the info on M*Modal. I didn’t hear anything about the bankruptcy, so I wonder if M*Modal will continue doing business as it reorganizes or just close up shop. Also, when I mentioned the companies below being agencies, I meant that they need to work with medical office/hospital clients- they themselves are not the ones producing the medical recordings, in other words. So I see them as agencies.

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