Life, Love, Long Hair, Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth, and other mysteries

All this and more, from a semi-Serbian, slightly sane, former editor for physicians and surgeons, who is the mother of seven kids.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Medical Transcribers Underpaid

I'd like some dialogue on this.

I wonder how you feel about knowing your medical details may be shipped overseas to be transcribed, or that your vital information may be mistyped by an underpaid transcriber who is rushing to get through the job in order to make enough money to feed their family.

To be clear:  we who transcribe medical reports from home are underpaid.

I have had a contract with the same company since May 2006 and never once has my rate of pay increased, despite my having requested it a few times.

Furthermore, the rate of pay for my entire team has been decreased twice.

From what I hear from others in the industry, this has been the norm.

I read of one MT who had an increase in pay, though it was miniscule, and her rate of pay is still way below what her several years of experience and excellent skills are worth.

I'd like to hear any information, opinions, and/or questions from those involved with medical transcription, whether you be a medical transcriber, one who is involved in a medical transcription service organization or medical records department of a hospital, one who is involved in a school or course which prepares people to become medical transcribers, or a medical professional who utilizes the services of medical transcribers.

I'd also like to hear from the end products of medical transcription services - patients.  This may well include you, if you have ever been, or are yet to be, to a doctor's office or a hospital.

I will probably have future blog entries on this subject.  For now, I will close and invite comments and conversation.  Please do not be afraid to comment.  I moderate the comments but publish anything that is not spam or abusive.

More of my writing can be read by clicking on the blog entries in the right hand column.  Here are a few quick picks:


  1. Such a hot topic. As an MT and MTSO owner, I feel I have a unique perspective. The devaluation of transcriptionists is not a new thing. I think I really saw a shift when AAMT changed their name, but that’s beyond what I want to get into here. The reason for the low wages is a culmination of several things. Off-shoring has played a part. Technology has played a part. MTs, themselves, have also played a part. MTs have traded low wages for experience and what a great prospect for MTSOs. At present, MTSOs absolutely have to cut pay if they want to stay afloat with the technology. They just have to. Some cut more than others because they know they can, MTs have shown them. Yes, in the end, MTs “pay” for this, but at the same time, they have the power to change it.

    There are also, in my opinion, two types of transcriptionists. One is the MT who went to school to stay home with their kids and who are simply earning a paycheck. They couldn't care less about the quality they produce and in turn produce horrible quality reports. They can’t understand why they've lost their job, etc. Then, there are MTs who love this line of work and KNOW there is a patient on the other side and honor that each and every day. Those are the transcriptionists I see thriving. Some of these same MTs have had their pay cut, lost jobs, and I get that, but it goes back to MTSOs making less in part to above and because of the state of our economy.

    I truly understand the plight of a transcriptionist because I am one. We work exceedingly long hours and most produce great work and we aren’t paid what we “think” we should be making. It is what it is. Don’t like it? Take action. It’s up to us to either accept it or make a change or enhance our skills. Once I graduated and got my feet wet, it quickly became clear to make money at this career, a career that I absolutely love with all my heart, I would need to go off on my own. Thankfully, I have clients who DO pay for my services and pay well. My services are of the highest quality which allows me in turn to pay appropriately.

    1. Nicole, I'm one of BOTH types of MTs you describe. I got into this because I wanted to be home with my kids while I work, but also I apply my perfectionistic tendencies to the job I do, with the ultimate goal being THE PATIENT.

      Of course, I do need the money, and although I am one of the relative few who make a decent income at this (read: just getting by without becoming wealthy), I feel very strongly about defending what we DO earn, about finding a way to make it fair for all involved in the $ end of things (training schools, MT, MTSO, and doctor), and I want to make it possible for those who are struggling to pay the bills with this career to succeed at being excellent at what they do.

      With poor pay, there's little motivation to stick with this, and I'm seeing more and more people become discouraged, and more and more drop out of the biz.

      The schools continue to promote MT as a growing career field. That is where it starts. The term "false advertising" comes to mind.

      So strongly do I support MT, in 2006 I started a private message forum called Canadian MT which currently has 444 members.

      Anyway, I love your website, and thank you for your comment!

    2. "There are also, in my opinion, two types of transcriptionists. One is the MT who went to school to stay home with their kids and who are simply earning a paycheck. They couldn't care less about the quality they produce and in turn produce horrible quality reports." - Nicole

      I have to say, this just struck me as a slap across the face. I, myself, took the MT course to be able to stay at home with my daughter and do my best as a single mother without being on Welfare. However, the generalization that all who take the MT course for this reason are careless workers who produce horrible work is just so untrue. I care greatly about the quality of my work, even if I do not "love" the job itself. I consistently get 100% accuracy despite this job "only being a paycheck." I have no previous experience in the medical field, but that does not make me an incapable transcriptionist.

      Sorry to not have much input in the way of wages and/or the lack thereof. I have only been a working MT for just over a year, and while I find the low pay and long hours to be very taxing I also have no other reasonable options for work making being an at-home MT basically necessary.

      I have been a little discouraged by the negative comments I have seen with regards to wages and low hope of pay ever increasing, but I am much too stubborn to admit defeat so soon.

      I look forward to following this blog and seeing what others have to say on the matter.

  2. Unfortunately most of us don't have the options of going out to get our own clients. I live in a town that is very cliquey when it comes to MT... in fact, I know the HIM manager and still couldn't get a position!

    I agree tho with the comment that we as MTs have done it to ourselves in a sense because even for those who leave due to just finally getting fed up, there will ALWAYS be someone who is willing to take their spot, no matter what the pay. That's why companies like On-The-Mark are still in business because they are one of the few who will takes newbies and can get away with crappy pay.

    I do agree we need to stand up but how to be heard? Probably the doctors are the best ones we can approach... off the top of my head, if we were to have a letter-writing campaign to physicians, letting them know the plight of MTs, would it make a difference? We could create a form letter to make it easier to get the word out and get the MTs across Canada to e.mail it to them (or create an e.mail address, maybe use the Canadian MT e.mail as a representative of the MTs on that forum?). Would they realize that their patient care is being jeopardized and that they have been kept in the dark about it? I don't know.

    1. Hey, Tee, as you know, we're in the process of getting a new board for Canadian MT. Once that is set up, by all means, we can be the home base for contact regarding the above. I'll get an address out as soon as I know it.

    2. And feel free to draft that form letter! ;) Heck, I'd do it if I had time... and I might anyway. Maybe several of us can collaborate on it.

  3. My concern is from the patient's point of view. A friend's mother was taken to hospital, her native tongue is German though she has learned some English. If not for her son being able to translate for the doctors the poor lady might be dead due to medical error.
    I fear a great many people will die due to errors in translating from the Medical Transcriptionists native tongue to English. Even if they type it out in their own language and use a computer program to translate the report into English. There will be many errors due to the fact that no computer program is 100% accurate.
    I realize that financially the entire world is in a Depression that is worse than the one experienced in the 1930's. How is outsourcing and taking away the few jobs left to Canadians going to help the current situation?
    Realizing that the current shortage of doctors makes for long waiting lists to find family doctors. Even longer wait times for referrals to specialists or to have various tests done. By the time a patient has gotten this far, how much longer will it take for the report to be sent overseas to be typed and returned to Canada.
    Most Canadians are well aware that medical error is the leading cause of death in the medical system. That fact alone should be setting off alarm bells. Will private clinics have test results for their patients out-sourced? I don't think so they want to keep the best reputation possible in order to compete with other private clinics. They realize that they are practicing as both a medical clinic and a business. An unnecessary surgery or death could put them out of business.
    I believe it is in the patients best interest that all medical reports be transcribed in Canada in English or French as they are the official languages in Canada. Tax payers have the right to know that the medical care they pay for isn't jeopordized by a mistake in translation.


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