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Health Providers Seek More Medical Coders and Transcriptionists

If you want to work in health care but don't want to be directly involved in patient care, a healthy career choice for you may be that of a medical coder or transcriptionist. These are behind-the-scenes jobs in the medical field.

Transcribe This

Have you ever been able to read a doctor's note? Probably not. But you would learn if you were a medical transcriptionist.

Medical transcriptionists are medical language specialists. By interpreting and transcribing, they detail the health care obtained by a patient after an injury or during an illness.

They listen to dictation tapes or read notes made by doctors about patient visits and then accurately record this information using computers.

Fast typing is an important part of this job. Karen Beckley is a transcriptionist. She says even though typing is very important, don't count this career out if you are a poor typist. She was not fast at typing at first.

"When I was in school, I thought I would never become a transcriptionist because I was so bad at typing. When I got into the real world, though, and took a transcription position, I learned that I was very good at it and took pride in it because I was so fast and accurate," says Beckley.

It's All in the Code

Medical coders have specialized knowledge as health technicians. They assign numerical codes to the diagnosis and procedures that a doctor requests to help a patient.

These codes are important. An error could result in a wrong clinical decision or a financial loss to the doctor or hospital.

If you were working as a coder, you would apply a code to a doctor's note that, for example, a patient was suffering from whiplash caused by an automobile accident. This coding would impact the reimbursement the doctor would get from the patient's insurance plan.

There are codes for everything from upset stomachs to brain surgery. They tell the insurance company what the problem was and how it was handled.

Why are These Occupations in Demand?

Our society is getting older. That means more people need more medical tests, treatments and procedures. And that means an increasing need for transcriptionists. Plus, organizations like Medicare will continue to carefully scrutinize billing. So skilled medical coders will be in demand.

Transcriptionists are also in short supply. For a while, some people were concerned that technological advances like voice recognition software might have a negative impact on the demand for workers. But that doesn't appear to be the case.

"In doing my business plan, I looked into voice recognition and it is a long way off," says transcriptionist Carla Young. "Most physicians don't want to bother with it because it is time-consuming and costly."

Sandra Lenting agrees. She has been a transcriptionist for 11 years in a hospital setting.

"There has been a lot of talk about voice-activated transcription, but I am wondering what the machine is going to do about interpreting heavy accents," says Lenting. "I see no let up in work or job opportunities in this field. We can even work at home and receive jobs and send our completed reports over the Internet."

What Kind of Training Do You Need?

To be a medical coder, you will need some training. Exactly how much depends on your objective, and on who you talk to.

"Coders are highly skilled individuals who have graduated from a medical record program with an associate or bachelor's degree and have sat for a national exam to achieve their credential," says Cheryl Bowling. She manages the coding department for a medical center in Michigan.

The American Health Information Management Association sponsors the certification exam for medical coders. Successfully completing the exam gives a coder the title of either certified coding specialist (CCS) or certified procedural coder (CPC).

Take courses in biology, health, chemistry and computers to prepare for this kind of work.

What is the Pay?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for medical transcriptionist was $16.36 in 2012. The average yearly wage was $34,020.

Here are some things about these careers that you should know:

  • You need to be detailed-oriented and have a high level of concentration.
  • These are computer-based occupations, which means there is risk for things like eyestrain and repetitive strain injuries.
  • There is a lot of sitting with these jobs.
  • Opportunities exist to work from home, especially for transcriptionists.
  • Because there are various training and certification options, it is wise to talk with employers in your area about what kind of credentials they require.

In short, career opportunities for medical coders and transcriptionists get a healthy diagnosis!


A Career in Health-Care Documentation
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