The Ultimate Guide to Medical Transcription Services


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The Ultimate Guide to Medical Transcription Services

Medical Transcription services convert physicians’ handwritten notes and reports into useful electronic documents. Transcription services have become increasingly popular, as more practices want integration with Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems as well as the growing availability of cost-effective options.
Converting handwritten notes or verbal dictation into digital records is a difficult process that all practices face, from large hospital networks to small independent private practices.

Types of Medical Transcription

Medical Transcriptionist

Traditionally, practices that required transcription would hire professional healthcare documentation specialists. These individuals would have training in physiology and medical terminology to transcribe the medical notes they receive accurately.

Reliable medical transcription into electronic documents is not easy and requires a particular skill set. Hiring the right people can be difficult. This can increase the overhead costs of running a practice and puts such services out of reach for many offices. Delegating the transcription duties to other clerical staff with less specific training can result in an unacceptable error rate.

A well-trained medical transcriptionist should be able to manage multiple projects ranging from a one-page diagnosis to complex multi-page consultations.

Additionally, it can be challenging to keep a steady workload for in-house documentation specialists, as the volume work will can to fluctuate significantly.

Voice Recognition Software

Software for dictation has been improving dramatically over the last several years. However, this software is still prone to error.

To protect from such inaccuracies, the resulting transcripts still need to be carefully reviewed and edited to avoid potentially dangerous mistakes.

Medical Transcription Service

Medical transcription services allow physicians to dictate notes into a phone or device. These recordings will then be converted into a digital copy of their notes by a professional medical transcriptionist operating remotely.

Medical transcription services provide the benefits of having professional transcription specialists, trained in medical terminology and procedures, but without the significant overhead costs of hiring them personally. The services can also have the convenience of voice recognition software but without the necessity of manual review.

A good medical dictation service should take a careful look at your practice and assign transcriptionists with the right skill set to handle your specialty’s needs.

Important Considerations

When choosing a service as critical as transcription for your practice, there are a number of important considerations that should be evaluated. This guide will give you some points of reference by which to compare different services.


Accuracy is of the utmost importance in medical transcription. A serious mistake could endanger patients as well as creating legal risk.

Many services require their transcriptionists complete a post-secondary training program or have some degree of medical experience. The vendor you choose should employ transcription specialists with knowledge of your field.

In particular, Certified Medical Transcriptionists (CMT) have passed the certification process created by the American Association for Medical Transcription (AAMT). CMTs have demonstrated their competence and up to date knowledge of the field. The AAMT requires CMTs to be recertified every three years.

Transcription services should emphasize quality and also employ dedicated Quality Assurance staffers to sign off on all transcripts before release.


Medical Transcription is a security critical enterprise. Patient data must be protected from unauthorized access. Any transcription service must adhere to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations and safeguard patient confidentiality.

Access Control

Does the service company keep records which employees accessed the records? These companies should have a record of everyone who opened, edited, or signed off on the transcription.

You should also have an understanding of how long they retain patient data on site after delivering the completed transcription.

Digital Security

Web-based communication should use SSL encryption with at least a 128-bit key. Check the URL bar in your browser for the padlock symbol when visiting their site.

If another method of communication is used, ask for the steps they take to make the communication secure. Unencrypted email is not a secure method of transmitting medical information.

Physical Security

The security of your data while held by the transcription service is also essential. Ask if they ensure the security of the information on their site’s physical premises and data centers.

Medical transcription companies should be careful about their employee screening and hiring process.


Most pricing schemes for medical transcription are based off a 65 character line and have a 24-hour turnaround. Signing a contract or monthly minimums can lower the overall cost if you plan to make substantial use of the service. If your practice is only planning intermittent use, it is possible to get vendors to charge on an hourly or per report basis. Depending on the vendor, some negotiation over this price may be possible.

However, the exact pricing will often vary somewhat based on various factors.

Key Variables in Determining Pricing

  • Amount of transcription
  • Quality of recording
  • Expedited turnaround requested
  • Extras (equipment rentals, disk backups, pick-up/drop off options)

Pricing can also depend on the method of dictation. Two most common methods for dictation are calling a toll-free number or using a handheld digital recorder. But other, more specialized equipment exists.

Final Considerations

  • Is the service HIPAA compliant
  • Can you get a full breakdown of the pricing
  • What is their average turnaround time
  • Do they provide expedited service
  • Do they operate outside of standard business hours
  • How long has the company been in business
  • What templates do they use
  • How do they verify quality and ensure accuracy
Medical, EMR & EHR software Pricing Guide
Don’t let price confusion keep you from selecting the best software!