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Medical Transcription -- A Few Words of Caution to EPs

After reading MT - A Brief Overview, you should also consider the following points of caution.

by Cynthia Ann Lewis

Through my affiliation with the MT site on AOL, I do much online mentoring with MT hopefuls. I would like to offer the following words of caution that I believe EPs should be aware of before moving forward with this home career field.

There are four additional areas of concern to those of us currently working in the field. One is the advent of voice recognition (commonly called VR) to the technology arena. While the current consensus among online MT's appears to be that the impact won't be felt for some years, there is definitely the possibility that at some point our jobs will change from "transcriptionist" to "editor." Because of the great deal of correction and interpretation that we do (in addition to the true translation of dictation by foreign medical providers), none of us feel that VR will ever completely replace our function, although most of us acknowledge that there will eventually be some type of significant impact on our profession. It is certainly prudent for all MT's, newcomers as well as experienced, to keep up to date with technological advances as they appear on the market.

The second area is also critical, and often doesn't even occur to many people considering a home business -- namely the near-impossibility of taking time off when you are working under contractual agreements. It can be difficult to find a backup MT in your area whose quality of work you can guarantee to your client and who has time to fill in for your time off. Also, because of the sometimes fierce competition for business in a particular geographical area, there is always the threat of losing a good customer to a less-than-ethical MT who may be tempted to undercut prices after filling in for you, thereby getting a plummy account for him/herself. If an office has come to rely on your excellent product, productivity and turnaround time, it can be very difficult for their medical records' department if you are simply "not working" for a week or two. The only time that I, myself, have had "off" since beginning my business in 12/94 have been a few long weekends that included Friday and Monday, plus a couple of days when my grandson was born. It's not a wonderful situation, but it seems to be universal among MT's with home businesses. It is certainly a major change from working as an employee in other fields where 2-5 weeks' vacation are common, as are sick days, personal days, etc. I would think this would be a major "caution" flag for women at home with children -- who do get sick, and whose family probably goes on an annual vacation.

The third concern for home-based MT work by men and women with small children is...the small children. I know that some women do manage to simultaneously work and care for infants and toddlers, but I personally can't imagine how, and they do admit it is difficult. Many MT's hire daycare helpers to come into the home during MT work hours, many work at night after litte ones are in bed -- the others just do what they can, I guess. The point is, this work takes extreme concentration, intense listening skills, 100% accuracy, and perfect results. I just have to believe it's very difficult to provide perfect reports with small children around.

The last stumbling block is mentioned at the end of the first article, but probably not stressed enough. It really is tough to begin work as a brand-new-newbie in MT. More than training, more than presentation and marketing, experience is the one quality that employers and potential clients want -- and many won't even interview an applicant without it. There are ways to enter the market, but it really is not easy. The AOL boards are full of disappointed newbies who have finished training and just can not get that first job -- either as a subcontractor, employee or contractor. Sometimes it takes months -- particularly if the applicant is not particularly adept at marketing and/or is not a very aggressive person naturally. Just starting a home business does not ensure clients. Those clients want to be sure their MT knows his/her stuff and can provide a quality product. Unfortunately, green newbies can do the basics, but experience is the only real teacher in this field. It's definitely a dilemma. I guess the bottom line is, don't expect to make your financial goals the first six months or a year after training. My personal case was unusual in that I had 35 years' business experience before transitioning to this field -- but trust me, it is unusual to have immediate success. I would estimate that a good year is needed before the MT is bringing home the bacon (or other, healthier foodstuffs!). It really is a point to be stressed in directing career material toward the readership of at-home parents.

For more info, click on MT- A Brief Overview.

Cynthia Ann Lewis owns a medical transcription service in California, having made the transition from a corporate management position to home business owner in 1994. She is also a freelance writer and daily contributor on the Medical Transcription Forum on AOL, as well as the mom of grown-up twin sons. She can be reached via email.

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