Hot Home Business: Medical Transcription

Want to work from home but not sure what you can do? The Hot Home Business Directory helps you find a business to run out of your home, lists the skills you need to do it, and tells you how to get started and where to get more information. Read on to find out if this Hot Home Biz is for you!

What You'll Do:
Transcribe physicians' dictation of medical reports, using a transcribing machine or digital system, earphones and foot pedal, and computer and word processing software. Besides being a speedy and accurate typist, you'll need to make sure sentences are grammatically correct and that medical terms and names of drugs are spelled properly.

Skills You'll Need:
Training in medical transcription; excellent spelling, grammar, listening and keyboarding skills; and plenty of patience. Medical transcription courses are offered by local community colleges, trade schools and home study programs, and take one to two years to complete. Keep in mind that home study courses don't provide the face-to-face interaction and support that's helpful when learning how to decipher doctors' dictation and medical terms.

Beware of any training program that promises overnight success. Mastering medical terminology, abbreviations and drug names is like learning several foreign languages. After your educational training, it's beneficial to work as a medical transcriptionist in a hospital, clinic, doctor's office or at a medical transcription service, before forging out on your own from home. Working side by side with other medical transcriptionists helps you build the skills, contacts and confidence you need to start your own business.

Equipment You'll Need:

  • Computer and word processing program
  • Transcribing machine or digital system
  • Internet access
  • Two-line telephone, or cable modem or DSL line, if working on a digital system
  • An extensive library of medical dictionaries and reference books covering terminology, drugs and abbreviations in various medical specialties
  • Medical spell-check software
  • A word-expander program (such as PRD or Shortcuts), which helps speed keyboarding time by allowing you to type in abbreviations and have them automatically converted to the longer word or phrase
  • Physicians' directories
  • A comfortable chair with good back support for long hours of keyboarding
  • An English dictionary and style guide

Start-Up Costs:
About $4,000 (excluding computer) to cover training, equipment and medical reference books (which cost at least $30 each)

How Much Can You Make?
Anywhere from $10 to $30 an hour, depending on your experience and geographical area. Self-employed medical transcriptionists usually charge by the line, and average from around 7 to 15 cents a line (the faster you type, the more lines you'll produce per hour). Research what medical transcriptionists in your area earn by networking at professional organizations and online forums devoted to the profession (see resources below).

How to Break In:

  • It is easier to land homebased employment after you've worked onsite as a medical transcriptionist in a hospital or office setting. Start by getting at least a year of experience in a hospital, clinic or doctor's office, or at a medical transcription service (which usually require three years of hospital-based experience).
  • Create professional letterhead, business cards and flyers or brochures. Think about how your services can set you apart from other transcriptionists. Can you can guarantee 24-hour turnaround or offer free pick-up and delivery? Little extras like these increase your value to clients.
  • Compile a list of doctors and clinics in your area, then send each one a letter and brochure introducing yourself. You can get lists of physicians from your local medical society or hospital or by checking lists at online resources such as MT Daily (see resources below). Follow up with a call to the office manager. Ask what transcription service they use now, whether they are happy with the service and when their current transcription contract expires. Offer to do one tape or a day's work for free, so that they can sample your work.
  • Consider other opportunities, such as finding another self-employed medical transcriptionist willing to outsource some work.
  • Have a childcare plan. Medical transcription requires a great deal of concentration and is very difficult to do when kids are underfoot. If you have young children, consider getting some part-time childcare, so you have uninterrupted work time.
  • Join professional organizations in the field and network with other medical transcriptionists in person and online (see resources below). Medical transcription organizations often offer message boards, newsletters, resources for training and job leads and up-to-date information on the latest medical terms.

Seasoned medical transcriptionists agree that the job is not an easy one -- but with persistence, patience and a good network of support, it can be a very rewarding homebased career.

iVillage Transcription board
MT Daily: Offers information about Medical Transcription training and resources, as well as a message board for networking.
The American Association for Medical Transcription (AAMT): A national organization devoted to the field.
The Independent Medical Transcriptionist by Donna Avila-Weil, CMT and Mary Glaccum, CMT
How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist by George Morton, CMT

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