Are you embarking on a journey to start working from home? If so, congratulations! The beginning stages of this process are exhilarating, but can be a bit overwhelming, particularly when you’re trying to decide what career you want and where to get your training.
If you’re thinking about a work-from-home career in the medical field, consider working as a medical transcriptionist.
You can join the workforce in a relatively short amount of time, as different schools will vary in their length of their programs. However, before you can enroll in a program, you first need to obtain a high school diploma or equivalent and do some research.
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 for you:
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.
An Easily Accessible Curriculum
The school will make available its medical transcription curriculum, which should offer basic courses as well as advanced courses in subjects such as Anatomy and Physiology, Disease Processes, and Medical Terminology. You’ll also want to look for a school that teaches Laboratory and Pathology, as well as Pharmacology, since these are 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 between schools to make sure you choose one that’s thorough.
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.
Support And Communication
If you are enrolled in an online program, it should include several forms of online communication such as chat, email, and message boards. You will want to ensure you will have a certified instructor that you’ll be able to contact on any week day to answer questions. You’ll also want to know that your questions will be answered promptly and thoroughly by a certified instructor.
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 four months. In reality, you will only be able to get the basics in that short period of time and should allow a good 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 become a professional and make the most money possible, you will want much more than that.
Some of the best schools we know teach 19-20 specialties and include medical reports of every type. Be sure the school you’re considering has Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced dictation, 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.
A big plus is if your school offers the SUM Medical Transcription Training CDs. 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 efficiently. Beware of schools that may shortcut their students on the practice dictation by creating their own. The SUM Medical Transcription Training CDs are expensive, but in the long run, they’re 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 which you can only access online. You may decide that you’d like to study on your couch with your textbook and study materials, and you cannot do that with an e-book. Insist on proper study materials in the form of actual hard copy books that 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? 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 don’t ask 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 high quality and you’ll be able to obtain employment after graduation.
What is the Difference Between an Online Program and a Local Program?
The main differences between an online school and a local school is that an online school is very convenient. With online training, you’re usually not held back with a class nor pushed ahead in subjects you haven’t mastered.
Most online training, if meeting the above criteria, 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 at your kitchen table.
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.
- Medical Terminology– This course teaches students basic and advanced terms related to diseases, general medicine, and medical equipment. It includes learning 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.
- 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.
- Medical Transcription– During Medical Transcription, students practice how to transcribe and edit a range of reports. 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.
- 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.
- Computer Training – These courses expand students’ computer skills and develop skills in keyboarding, editing, storing, and printing medical documents on microcomputers. Some of the best MT programs will have many different types of computer training available to its students. (MT School of Canada has over 100 different computer and software training courses 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 are required to memorize many of the most commonly confused terms through exercises and repetition. Most of the important points you’ll need will be re-emphasized during the training to help you remember them.
- Medical Editing– This course explains the importance of medical editing and should include a full curriculum of medical editing using various reports and specialties. 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 have extensive advertising in place or will 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.
We know of a couple schools in particular whose logos are all over the internet, 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 practice CDs, 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 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!