Medical transcription is a $12 billion industry, and qualified medical transcriptionists (MTs) are in short supply. One reason for the demand is our aging population. Not only do older people require more health care (which creates a greater need for transcription), but most MTs are between the ages of forty and sixty. But according to a spokesman for the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) “Everyone agrees we’re about to hit a crisis point. Over half of the MTs are approaching retirement.”
Some companies are turning to foreign labor to pick up the slack. The medical transcritpion Industry Association (MTIA) estimates that somewhere between 8% and 10% of all contract transcription is done overseas, or about 4-5% of all transcriptions.
The relatively low percentage of off-shore work is due to a number of factors, but fluency in English is the primary one. One industry insider characterized the off-shore transcription services as a “giant voice recognition device” because the quality/accuracy just isn’t there.
Overseas rates are going up too, particularly in India, because they’ve realized that they can demand higher prices thanks to growing need and scarce availability of experienced MTs. In fact, many of the off-shore transcriptionists are actually medical doctors who find they can make more money in their country transcribing than they could practicing medicine.
The outlook for MT jobs is beginning to be influenced by some MTSOs who are partnering with speech technology companies. The technology may increase costs by 15% to 20%, but it can increase output 100% to 200% according to one MTSO owner. This improvement allows them to squeeze more margin out of the work. In the short term, however, speech recognition as a back-end solution probably will just change the way transcriptionists work by shifting the emphasis from transcription to editing, and won’t eliminate the need for MTs.
Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) are predicted to be widespread in 10 years, and transactional patient data will be entered in real or near-real time, but the narrative portion of medical records will still need be handled by transcriptionists—or voice recognition when it becomes a viable front-end solution.
But make no mistake, medical transcription is a knowledge-based profession that requires extensive medical training and on-site experience before you can start to do it from home. Don’t fall for the outrageous scams that offer a few month training, a bogus certificate no one accepts, and a list of customers for a few hundred dollars. Check with AHDI to see if the school your considering has been aapproved.