Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Working from Home: Pros & Cons of Medical Transcription

By Marcia Frellick | Mar 6, 2012 | Posted In Specialties

Healthcare isn’t generally a field that lends itself to working from home, but there are job options that combine medical knowledge with at-home convenience.

The most common is medical transcription, a service that people have been doing from home from the time doctors started dictating their notes into Dictaphones in the 1970s. Transcriptionists listen to recordings of doctors’ notes on patient visits and type them into formal medical records that tell a patient’s story.

Electronic medical records and speech-recognition software have changed the landscape a bit, says Susan Lucci, RHIT, CMT, CHPS, AHDI-F. Lucci is a member of the board of the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI), the professional organization for medical transcriptionists. Since some transcription work is done mechanically, there are fewer jobs and employers can be more selective, she says.

That’s why experienced transcriptionists currently have the edge in today’s market. No matter how sophisticated the software, trained transcriptionists are still in demand especially in documenting increasingly complex information on procedures and medications that enter the market daily.
New coding system expected to increase demand

Information will become even more complex in October 2013 when compliance requirements for ICD-10 codes begin. The number of current ICD codes (International Statistical Classifications of Diseases), which classify conditions, injuries, symptoms, causes of death, etc., will go from 14,000 to 68,000. If you have a sprained or strained ankle, for instance, the number of ICD codes to describe it will go from four to 72.

“This is why transcription won’t be going away,” Lucci says. “Doctors won’t have the time for this level of specificity to be typed in by themselves on a hospital visit.”

Pay is the downside

The convenience and flexibility of working at home helps balance the downside of low pay, she says.

Often the transcriptionists are hired as independent contractors who can set their own schedules. They typically sign up for a certain number of shifts per week. An eight-hour shift can be completed over 12 hours, for instance, to work around the employee’s schedule.

Pay is based on line rates. And if you’re transcribing from a speech-recognition program that rate will be lower — about 50 to 60 percent lower — because some of the work has been done for you, and you’re doing more editing than typing, Lucci says.

Current rates for straight transcription are about 8 cents a line and about 1,100 lines minimum per eight-hour shift, Lucci says. If you did five shifts per week, average annual pay would be just under $23,000.

“For what our professionals are expected to know and do, that is a real sad statement,” she says. “There are those who can go well above those minimums…. I know people who can do 3,000 lines a day and they’re doing just fine.”

Training usually takes less than one year

Though no college degree is currently required, AHDI lists approved programs on its website. Most of the programs run about nine months to one year and include facets such as pharmacology, disease process and anatomy and physiology, Lucci says.

Medical transcription is also spawning more work-from-home possibilities. Lucci herself doesn’t transcribe but she works out of her Colorado home and is Chief Operating Officer for a medical transcription company that’s based in New Jersey. “I absolutely love it,” she says.

Work-from-home jobs are also available in recruiting, staffing, editing and training transcriptionists.


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