We recently had the pleasure of interviewing medical transcriptionist Rajasekharan N. of the MT blog MT Herald. Raj has worked in the medical transcription industry since 1999 and has occupied different positions including transcriptionist, editor, team leader, quality analyst, and manager.
1. How did you get started in medical transcription? What pulled you towards it? What advice would you give to someone starting out today?
Construction, commerce, computers, Internet and medicine are my areas of interest, and I like sedentary-type, work at home jobs.
Once out of the engineering college, I made some futile, unrelated business attempts and got into a debt trap, and was in the compulsion of winning the bread, at which time I noticed an ad in the local daily about the need for people proficient in English to work as medical transcriptionists. Stipend was offered right from the first day into training. It was the time when medical transcription companies were just mushrooming up and the prospects looked better than being a civil engineer. Since it was the need of the hour to earn bread and since a medical transcription job satisfied most of my aptitudes, there was no second thought, I just walked through and didn’t bother that it’s an Eve’s job, though I dislike typing, especially for hours and hours.
An experienced medical transcriptionist in India can earn more than professionals like doctors, engineers, attorneys etc., thanks to the exchange rate of 1:50 between US Dollar and Indian Rupee. As per the latest medical transcription salary survey, the average salary of a US MT is approximately $3000 a month. Had the value of US Dollar equaled Indian Rupee, I doubt I would have chosen this career or I fear any graduate in India would!
To someone starting today: Identify your talents and choose the best-paying one from it. Analyze career growth prospects and earning potentials before stepping into any career. Medical transcription is not for anyone aspiring for quick/fat bucks. It can pay your bills and it can offer you all the freedom and advantages of working from home, and you don’t need any credentials or basic qualifications to begin with. If you find yourself interested with these aspects, then it is the right career for you.
2. Medical transcription involves memorizing such a vast number of complex terms and confusing notations, do you have any special techniques that help you remember it all? Do you have any other work and productivity insights that might benefit other MTs?
Ten years into this profession I’m still on a learning curve. But I don’t memorize things, rather I would understand the subject and then forget it. I am not going to write any exam to memorize and then regurgitate. An MT has access to all reference materials within quick reach; Internet the most advantageous resource of them all. All you need is a crisp ear and an undisturbed mind to think cohesively, in conjunction with the doctor.
Productivity insights: All that you can do to reduce keystrokes and mouse usage! How about using speech recognition technology (SRT) to our advantage to re-dictate doctors’ dictations?
3. You wrote a very lengthy post on your blog about the effect that electronic medical records (EMRs) will have on the medical transcription industry. There seems to be a wide range of opinions, from “it is doomed” to “nothing is going to change.” How soon do you think the medical transcription industry will see a major change? How can MTs prepare themselves for this and remain useful and relevant in a changing industry?
Medical transcription changed from using tape recorder/typewriter to digital voice recorder/computer/Internet, and then later SRT stepped in, and in a year or two it may be EMRs. The only constant in life is constant change.
Earlier when doomsayers predicted SRT would replace transcriptionists, I used to confidently say that unless there is the invention of artificial intelligence equaling human intelligence, complete automation is impossible and human intervention will be needed to rectify the errors produced by automation, and in that case there would be the necessity of MTs to rectify the errors. That has remained true until this date with MTs needed to edit those speech recognition bloopers.
However, with Obama pushing for complete EMR implementation by 2015, I think there will be a major evolution of things. I think as we are moving one great step ahead in the direction of automation, with the doctors themselves filling templates with pre-typed words, opportunities for medical transcriptionists may get reduced. In any situation, I think a multi-talented MT does not have to worry about the changes happening, take it to your advantage [rather] than cursing it. We may still have to assist busy doctors who handle a lot of patients or multiple surgeries daily that they cannot find time fiddling with the EMR.
Anybody’s success in any career, not only in medical transcription, lies in his or her ability to learn and adapt to the changes happening within the industry. Technology is updating on a daily basis, and if you’re not updating yourself to those updates, you are going to lose and may be phased out one day.
4. I noticed you also wrote a blog post about the movie Sicko. What do you think is the reason that America, one of the world’s wealthiest countries, has such a pathetic healthcare system? As someone who works within the US healthcare system, but from a distance, does this create any conflicted feelings?
I think the US government has a zillion other things to look up on globally than the welfare of its own citizens!
Personally I’m of the view that before you worry about the people of other countries or go for global policing, you should ensure 100% welfare of the people of your country. A government should be a facilitator providing infrastructure for businesses to thrive rather than the government itself running businesses. A government’s prime worry should be about feeding its citizens and their well-being, particularly of the economically weaker section. I’m wondering why there are no government-run hospitals in the US to take care of the poor who cannot afford health insurance. 15% of the US population are still uninsured. With the US government spending so much for maintaining armed forces outside the US and giving out so much as grants and charities to so many countries, doesn’t it have time and resources to take care of its own poor taxpayer’s health?
Though ours was a poor country once and now has a quickly growing economy, our government has given us the right to subsidized food grains and rationing and free/subsidized healthcare for a very long time for every citizen, especially for the weaker sections of the economy.
We have a brain-drain happening in our country for decades. Bright students here have a dream of settling down in the US once they are finished with their studies. Right from my childhood I was opposed to this idea due to various obvious reasons, and I used to say to my US-aspiring friends “your success lies in earning here what you can earn in the US.” Thanks to the invention and advent of the Internet, I could successfully enact it. After watching Sicko and with my current employment status of working from home in US healthcare, I don’t regret for my thoughts or rather my thoughts got justified.