If you’re thinking about a work-from-home career in the medical field, consider working as a medical transcriptionist. You can start usually working in a relatively short amount of time, as different schools will vary in the length of their programs. However, before you enroll in any program, you should know what to look for. Here, we’ll explore a few of the most important things a good medical transcription school should include:
What To Look For In a Medical Transcription School
Not all schools are created equal, and a school that teaches you medical transcription with an eye toward your future employment is going to be much more valuable to you than one in which you can finish in just four months, for example.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re starting your search for the best medical transcription school . . . .
Medical Transcription Training Best Practices
The Association for Healthcare Integrity (AHDI) has developed a competency profile for medical transcription schools called COMPRO. This profile outlines almost all of the best practices a good medical transcription school must include to be considered competent. Be sure your school offers a curriculum that follows this profile (our meets and even exceeds this recommendation.)
An Easily Accessible Curriculum
The school should have a complete medical transcription curriculum, which will have not only basic courses, but also advanced subjects such as Anatomy and Physiology, Disease Processes, and Pharmacology. You’ll also want to look for a school that teaches Laboratory and Pathology since this is such an integral part of medical transcription. Many online schools today include these courses, but some do not. Get a copy of the school’s curriculum and compare schools to make sure you choose one that’s thorough. (A curriculum that’s not so thorough is going to make it hard for you to get a job, so the curriculum should be the first thing you look at.)
If your typing speed is not at least 45 wpm, be sure your school includes a typing tutorial so you can continue to work on your speed. In addition to typing speed, some schools will train you in computer shortcuts and transcription expander software, which will greatly increase your speed as well.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a high typing speed to succeed in medical transcription. You should, however, learn the shortcuts that experienced transcriptionists use to maximize production. A good MT school will include this in their curriculum for those who need it.
Support And Communication
If you are enrolled in an online school, it should give you the option of several forms of online communication such as chat, email, and message boards. You’ll also want to ensure you’ll have a certified instructor that you’ll be able to contact anytime to answer questions.
You’ll also want to know that your questions will be answered promptly and thoroughly and the students are well taken care of, so take a minute and look for any complaints about the school online. A good school will have minimal complaints from past students and graduates. (The most common complaint we see from other schools is that their graduates can’t get employment. Be sure to check your school’s job placement rate to make sure it has a high percentage so that its graduates are finding employment.)
A Thorough, Comprehensive Approach
One of the most important things to look for in a good medical transcription school is the level of training they provide. Some online schools advertise that you can learn it all and become proficient in just a few short months. In reality, you will only be able to get the basics in that short period of time. In reality, you should allow about 12 months to become trained properly. A good school will allow you ample time to learn this and give you plenty of time to do this at your own pace.
In addition to the depth of training provided, you need to make sure the school you’re considering teaches you all types of medical reports and all specialties. Some of the more popular online schools only teach 8-10 medical specialties, which is fine for a beginner. However, to work from home and make the most money possible, you will want much more than that.
Some of the best schools we know teach 20 or more specialties (we teach 21!) and include medical reports of every type. Be sure the school you’re considering has beginning, intermediate, and advanced dictated medical reports, as well as dictation with foreign accents.
Real-Life Training Materials
You will want to make sure the practice dictation you’ll receive is real—real physicians dictating real patients and not simply staff-dictated reports like some MT schools offer. The level of training is simply not as high with staff-dictated reports, and there are MANY schools that do this.
It’s a big plus is if your school offers the SUM Medical Transcription training software. These are some of the industry’s best training products for medical transcription training and are professionally designed to include everything you need to learn the profession most thoroughly and most efficiently. Beware of schools that may shortcut their students on the practice dictation by creating their own. The SUM Medical Transcription training software is what we use for our students. It’s expensive, but in the long run, it’s worth every penny for the extensive training they give you.
Another thing to watch out for is to make sure your school gives you actual industry textbooks and not simply digital electronic books for your study material that you can only access online. You may want to study on your couch one rainy day with your textbook and study materials, and you cannot do that with a digital ebook. Insist on proper study materials in the form of actual hard copy, professionally published books and materials you can take with you anywhere.
An Excellent Job Placement Record
Lastly, and most importantly, ask about the school’s career placement ratio and find out the percentage of graduates that go on to obtain employment. Does the school help the graduate find employment or simply graduate them and show them the door? (We know many really popular schools that have a bad reputation for this.) You’ll want a school that has a very high job placement rate, near 100%, to know that you’re getting a quality education.
If you aren’t told about the job placement rate or if the school you’re considering has less than a 100% rating, this may mean the program isn’t working for some of their graduates. When you’re considering an investment of thousands of dollars, you want to be sure your education is of the highest quality and that you’ll absolutely be able to obtain employment after graduation.
Which is Better – an Online Program or a Local Course?
Again, it depends. I have taught transcription at a local college, and I’ve also taught it online. The main difference between an online school and a local course is that an online school is very convenient for the students. With online training, you’re usually not held back with a class nor pushed ahead in subjects you’re not quite ready for. Most online training will allow you to proceed at your own pace.
Because it’s online, you’ll also have the convenience of learning where it’s best for you, such as in your home office or on your couch with your laptop. There’s also the travel time to consider, and with online training, you usually don’t have to stick to the syllabus if you want.
Most of all, I’ve found that the major difference is that most local courses will require you to do some kind of unpaid internship at the end of the year. This is something I absolutely disagree with, as a superior training program will enable you to start work right away. Unfortunately, I’ve found that it’s the lower quality programs that will mandate you having to do an internship first before you can be considered graduated. This means even more time spent unproductively while someone else hopes to fill in the holes in the training you just finished – while you give them free labor!
While I hope that’s not the case in every situation, it does seem to be the norm for the low-quality medical transcribing courses that I’ve seen. Again, this is something I absolutely disagree with, and I made sure that OUR graduates go directly to work after graduation without donating 3-6 months of your free labor to anybody.
What Are the Course Descriptions?
The courses you take may vary by school:
- Anatomy and Physiology– Students learn about the various body parts, their systems, and how they work. Some schools may offer these as separate courses. Be sure to ask if this course work covers the basics or is in-depth. You’ll need the in-depth training that a longer program covers in order to learn this subject completely. To be completely sure, ask to see a comprehensive syllabus or curriculum.
- Medical Terminology– This course teaches students basic and advanced terms related to diseases, general medicine, and medical equipment. It includes root words, suffixes, and prefixes. Some of the advanced MT programs will also have additional activities like flashcards, for example, to help you master medical terminology. Every MT school that I’ve looked at has at least some type of medical terminology in it.
- Laws and Ethics– Because transcriptionists work with confidential medical files, this is an important area to learn since it educates students on privacy laws regarding patient records and other documents.
- Actual Medical Transcription Practice– In the practice portion, students should learn how to transcribe and edit using their equipment and transcribing software. Objectives include identifying the different types of medical reports that need transcribing, and understanding abbreviations, acronyms, and common terminology when transcribing. Your work should be done under the supervision of an experienced certified MT instructor in order to ensure that everything is up to industry standards, and they should provide clear feedback to you.
- Introduction to Healthcare Documentation and Healthcare Records– Discusses the attributes of a professional transcriptionist as well as health record privacy, HIPAA regulations, protected health information, and the creation and components of health records.
- Specialized and Basic Computer and Software Training – These courses expand on students’ current computer skills and should be developing skills in advanced keyboarding, editing, and shortcuts in transcription. Some of the best MT programs have many different types of computer training available to its students. (MT School of Canada offers over 400 different computer and software training classes for its students.)
- Disease Processes– A survey of disease processes found in the systems of the human body, for each medical specialty.
- Application and Pronunciation– Students should be required to know many of the most commonly confused terms through exercises and repetition. For the best schools, most of the important points you’ll need will be re-emphasized during the training to help you remember them.
- Medical Editing– Most transcription courses we found don’t include this. Medical editing training should include a full curriculum or have it embedded throughout the training using various reports and specialties (as we do.) Extensive practice will help the students to become familiar with the types of reports associated with each medical specialty, instruments, and procedures used in medical treatment and give the students the experience needed to work in the medical editing field.
- Advanced Transcription– Allows students to practice transcribing real physician dictation (including those who have a foreign accent) which gives them the necessary experience to gain employment. Make sure the school gives you plenty of advanced dictation, both clinic and hospital reports of every specialty, and be sure exams will be graded by an experienced certified instructor.
Medical transcriptionists can work in a healthcare setting or from the comfort of their own home as an independent contractor for their own clients or for a medical transcription service.
Do Your Due Diligence and Research Thoroughly
One final thing to consider when looking at online MT schools is that a few of the schools (I won’t mention any names!) have an entire advertising program in place and routinely pay employers to post their school logo on their web page. In this regard, it appears that the school is very popular and well regarded; however, in reality, you need to do your research and not assume such. Several of these we researched had financial opportunities for the site with the web page, and one has even told me that they prefer our graduates over their graduates because ours are trained more thoroughly!
In summary, you’ll find some schools whose logos and links are all over the internet, claim to have tens of thousands of graduates (!) but don’t have a 100% job placement rate, don’t include hard-copy textbooks in their training, and have substituted their own homemade practice dictation instead of the professional SUM medical transcription software, in order to save money. You’ll want to research these things before you enroll as well as type the school’s name in Google and search for complaints/reviews. By searching for reviews on specific schools, you’ll learn just what current and past students have experienced and be able to benefit from their experience.
If you’re just beginning to research this fascinating career field, you may be interested in some of our other articles about what to look for specifically in medical transcription training. We have a lot of good information on our blog, and you may also want to request our Free e-Book about Medical Transcription or contact us for more information. We’ll be happy to help answer any questions you may have!