Home / Articles / Medical Transcription Tools of The Trade: Setting Up Your Home Office


Medical Transcriptionist working in home officeConsidering a career in medical transcription?  Here’s some expert advice from the professionals at MT School of Canada:

Medical transcriptionists perform a vital role in ensuring the quality of patient care.  Since a large number of medical transcriptionists work from home, their home office requires a unique setup in order to perform their duties successfully.

If you are considering this career opportunity or if you’re already in MT training, here are some home office tips and medical transcription tools of the trade you’ll need to perform your day-to-day activities.

Computer Requirements

The most important piece of equipment is your computer. A computer with the right specifications will make your job a whole lot easier, which is why you should consider one with:

  •  At least 4 Gb of RAM, more if you have your own clients
  •  Hard drive with at least 250 GB (500+ is preferable)
  •  Built-in Ethernet networking and Wi-Fi networking
  •  At least 15-17-inch display with matte finish (larger is easier to see)
  •  At least 3-4 USB ports
  •  Ergonomic keyboard and mouse
  •  DVD drive that contains reading and writing capabilities

Many transcriptionists use their laptop computers to work at home this way.  This situation is fine as long as your laptop has a full-size keyboard.  If not, a separate full-size keyboard may be purchased separately and attached to the laptop.  Having a full-size keyboard when transcribing ensures your hands won’t be cramped up after a few hours of transcribing.

Although not required, Bluetooth connectivity may also be useful if you would like to sync data to a tablet or connect external devices such as a mouse or keyboard without utilizing one of your USB ports.  You’ll also need to make arrangements for patient privacy and ways to keep your work confidential, which we’ll discuss at another time.

A dedicated sound card is something that many medical transcriptionists also desire. Keep in mind that installing a dedicated sound card may not necessarily improve dictation, so you should avoid doing so until after you have tested your current system.


Some type of medical transcription software is also needed.  What you use will be determined by your working situation.  We’ll explain more on this in just a moment.

To see the most current medical transcription software,
just Google “medical transcribing platforms.”

If you plan to start your own medical transcription service with your own clients, there is no right or wrong choice when it comes to transcription software.  However, it’s important to do your homework to find the software that is right for you. Read online reviews and talk with other professionals to see what they like and do not like about different software. Some software programs will allow a free trial period, allowing you to test the product without making a significant investment, which we highly recommend.

If you plan to work in your own MT business, one piece of wonderful software we’ve used and recommend is made by Bytescribe.  This company has software for both the employer and employee, making it an ideal choice for new start-up MT services.  All Bytescribe’s software works hand-in-hand with each other, from the dictation software for your clients, to the transcription software for your employees, to the digital workflow software for you to keep track of it all.  This is the software that we used for our first MT service, and we found the sales and support team very responsive and easy to work with.

On the other hand, if you plan to work from home as an employer or independent contractor for one of the larger MT services, we suggest you hold off purchasing any type of software for now.  Most larger MT services use their own software or have specific requirements of which they will make you aware prior to hiring you.  If their software costs money, some of the large services will take it out of your first few paychecks so you don’t have to spend money up front to get started with them.  After all, there’s no need to spend additional money now on something you may not need later.  If you’ve trained with a good medical transcription training program, you’ll already have some software you used while practicing transcription.

One note of caution here – beware of MT service companies that require you to purchase expensive software up front.  Do your due diligence and be careful with this type of arrangement.  In the past, there have been unscrupulous MT services who made big promises to new MTs, only to have no work available once the new MT purchased and paid for their expensive equipment.  We haven’t heard of any scams like this in quite awhile, but it always pays to do your homework first before investing any money with a company you’ve never heard of.

Word Expanding Software

Word expanding software is just what it sounds like:  Software that allows you to type several letters in succession or a phrase, and then automatically expands that pre-determined phrase into a longer word, sentence, or even a paragraph.  This is one of several secrets of how professional medical transcriptionists can type 10, 20 or even 30 or more words per minute above their usual typing speed.

For example, in one of my client’s reports, the dictator always gave the same exact wording for a normal patient’s physical exam.  He always said:

Heart: Regular rate and rhythm.  S1 and S2.  No murmurs, rubs or gallops.

In this case, what I did was set up my word expander program to accept the phrase “hrrr” (for heart regular rate and rhythm….) to expand into that entire sentence above.  So for every report in which he dictated that phrase (and I typed “hrrr”) I saved about 10 seconds of time.  (Of course the time saved here will depend on how fast you normally type.)

To make production go faster, experienced transcriptionists will put as many phrases and sentences as they can into word expanders.  At one point, I had so many set up, I was almost typing shorthand and could keep up with the dictator I was listening to without having to pause to catch up my typing.  Check out our article below about how to set up MS Word as a temporary word expander.

Click here for more information about word expander software.

Microsoft Word Program and Line Counters

Even the most advanced medical transcriptionist software may not allow you to easily create word documents, which is why sometimes a separate program such as Microsoft Office is recommended. Since many medical transcriptionists bill according to lines, a program such as Microsoft Word that contains a built-in line counter is recommended if you’re starting your own service.

Even so, many transcriptionists claim this counter has a tendency to be inaccurate, and therefore prefer to download a separate program for line-counting purposes.  If you’re starting your own MT business, you’ll need to do research into which of these will work best for you.  However, if you’re planning to work as an employee or an independent contractor for a large MT service, they’ll most likely have their own way of counting lines.  In that case, no extra software would be needed.

Want to see how lines are counted in medical transcription?  Take a peek at  this article to learn the many methods of counting lines done by transcriptionists.

Foot Pedal

While most dictating physicians these days record their daily dictation using digital files, some still use cassette tapes, which must be played on a dedicated machine.  Regardless of whether you are using a special machine or digital files, a foot pedal is needed to help you start or stop the recording.  This foot pedal plugs right into your computer, and software lets you program it to your specifications.  An added benefit is that you can set it up to rewind a fraction of a second or so each time you lift your foot off the foot pedal, before starting up again.  By having this little bit of technology, you ensure you’re not skipping any important dictation from stopping and starting the dictation.  It also helps keeps your hands free to continue typing.


Some experienced transcriptionists say it’s important to select a quality pair of noise-cancelling headphones, regardless of their price. However, we have found that in almost every instance, an average set of earphones will work just fine.  If you prefer, a quality set of earphones will last longer and usually provide you with marginally better results, making them well worth their investment. Since earphones can go out without warning, it is a good idea to have a backup pair on hand as well.

Home Office Setup

Even when wearing headphones, it is still important to have a quiet work area that is free from distractions. Your workstation should also contain adequate lighting and comfortable, ergonomic seating. Other things that should be included in your home office are:

  •  A combination printer/copier/scanner/fax machine
  •  Basic office supplies such as copy paper, stapler, paper clips, etc.

Click here for more information on setting up your transcription home office

These tools of the trade will help you as you transition to become a successful work-at-home medical transcriptionist. Take the first step and contact us to find out more about our premier medical transcription training program, which can help you get started in your new medical transcription career within about a year.

Or request our free ebook to learn more about this fascinating and rewarding career choice.