What is Medical Transcription?

Sometimes it’s easy for those of us in the medical transcription profession, to forget that some people don’t know just what medical transcription is.  Simply, it’s typing a letter or report that a physician has dictated.

Years ago, we had stenographers and typing pools.  But with technology, medical transcription has evolved, as have all other forms of typing or transcription.  There are different kinds of transcription work, including legal transcription or transcribing interviews.  At our medical transcription agency, 2Ascribe, we’re specialists in medical transcription.

Physicians used to use “dicta-typing” machines, Dictaphone being one of the most popular and recognizable brands.  These dicta-typing machines recorded voice dictation onto tapes, and were used in businesses as well as medical practices.  Today, most dictation is done using digital recorders.   There are many advantages to digital voice recording over tape voice recording (see articles on digital recorders at https://www.2ascribe.com/category/articles/digital-recorders).  Physicians can also dictate using a telephone, employing a telephone dictation system.

Physicians typically dictate letters, consultation reports and Independent Medical Examinations.  Letters can be to another physician, such as a letter from a specialist to your family physician with the results of a test or a procedure.  Other types of letters can be Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), a letter to your employer that you were away sick, or a transfer of your files from one physician to another when you move.  There are a number of different kinds of consultation reports, including executive health reports, surgical reports and psychiatric evaluations.  Independent Medical Examination Reports are done by a physician on the request of an insurance company, such as when someone is in a car accident or has been injured at work, and a third party report is requested to help evaluate someone’s degree or level of disability.

Physicians can dictate from different locations.  Most physicians learn to dictate when they are doing their residency and are working in a hospital setting.  Hospitals all have dictation systems that the physicians can access from various locations within the hospital, such as outside the surgical suites or in the physicians’ lounge.  Physicians also dictate from their medical offices when they see patients.  And if they see patients in nursing homes and palliative care facilities, they may also dictate there.

Medical transcriptionists have specialized training and education, as they need a very specialized medical vocabulary.  They are far more than just typists.  They need to understand the context of the words that the physician is dictating.  Sound alike words, like ilium (bone in the pelvis) or ileum (part of the intestine), can be quite confusing unless you understand the context in which they are dictated.  They have to know whether the medication the physician dictated is Tryptan (an amino acid used to help with sleep) or triptan (migraine medicine).  And each speciality within medicine has its own even more specialized vocabulary.  Additionally, medical transcriptionists need to know how to format letters and reports from different medical specialities, and to do so for each physician’s specifications.

Medical transcriptionists can work for hospitals, clinics, physician’s office, insurance companies or medical transcription agencies, such as 2Ascribe.   There are a number of medical transcription agencies in Toronto and throughout Canada who contract work to medical transcriptionists who work from their homes.  Medical transcriptionists who work in places such as a physician’s offices or a hospital transcription pool, are paid as employees.  Medical transcriptionists who work for a medical transcription agency are usually contractors and are paid based on the volume and quality of the work that they transcribe.

Volume can be billed by per minute of dictation, per page of transcription, or by line of transcription.  If you’re working for an agency, it’s important to understand how they define each of these parameters.  At 2Ascribe, we use the industry standard of one line being 65 characters and spaces.


2Ascribe medical transcription agency is located in Toronto, Ontario Canada, and provides quality medical transcription services to physicians and clinics throughout Canada.

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