Let’s Talk Money and Medical Transcription | Part 3

Having already taken off with a bang and made our way over some hurdles, we’re in the home stretch of this 3-part article series that addresses some production and money woes of the medical transcription and editing field (read part 1 and part 2 too!). For the most part, we’ve explored things more-or-less out of your control that you need to make decisions on when applying for, accepting, and maintaining a health documentation specialist position, but now let’s put you in the hot seat and see where your own actions might be the culprit of an unsatisfactory paycheck and look at possible solutions you can incorporate into your daily work life.

Most medical transcriptionists and editors will tell you they work as hard as they possibly can to make as much as they possibly can. While this is true in some situations, it is actually untrue in most. I challenge you to prove me wrong.

When you sit down at your desk—whether you’re working in the healthcare documentation field already or are making your way through one of Career Step’s courses—get out a pen and paper before you start for the day. Date the sheet so you can keep track of your progress or identify a pattern (perhaps you’ll find Wednesdays present a real problem for you, while Fridays are very productive). On the first line, put your start time. Then put your pen down and get to work. As soon as you stop to do something else—answer the phone, check email, go to the bathroom, get a glass of water, put through a load of laundry, welcome the kids home from school, feed the dog, check Facebook, read the news, surf the Internet—write down the time (be exact, don’t round up or down to the nearest 5- or 10-minute increment). Before you start working again, write down what you spent that time away from work doing, as well as the time you’re now going to start working again. Don’t try to come up with a reason not to write it down—all those minutes add up! At the end of the day, identify your time leak and make a concentrated effort to cork it. You are responsible for how you spend your time.

The reality is the vast majority of healthcare documentation positions only pay for time spent transcribing or editing within the medical record, while the time spent researching and verifying goes unacknowledged. With that in mind, you should do everything within your power to avoid spending unnecessary time performing tasks that won’t contribute to your paycheck. To be clear, I’m not encouraging forfeiting research time at the expense of accuracy. There are, however, ways you can reduce the amount of time spent doing things you aren’t getting paid for.

    1. Leave the tangible books for leisure reading. As much as you might love the feel of a real book, I’m willing to bet you love the feel of real money more. There is absolutely no contest as to which method of research is faster: books or websites. If you are sure you can find something faster in a book than online, you need to take some time to learn how to use the Internet more efficiently.


    1. Embrace the Internet, but not too much. Work on having a favorites or bookmarks list that you would be proud to share with others in your field. The amount of information available on the Internet is overwhelming and all too often inaccurate, but there are some real gems to be found that will make your day much easier. Make sure you have a reliable medication site that will show correct capitalization, doses, and indications. Have a pictorially detailed anatomy site on hand. Decide what other websites would assist you on a regular basis and bookmark them, while leaving the interesting-but not-often-helpful sites floating out there in cyberspace.


    1. Don’t forget what you’ve learned; build on it. Once you make the transition from coursework to live work, be sure to continue refreshing and building your database of medical terminology and disease processes. Take 5-10 minutes at the beginning of each workday to run through some flashcards or word lists that focus on the specialty or dictators you’ll be working with. When you come across a new term, take a few minutes to become familiar with it—its spelling, meaning, and individual word parts. You’ll be more likely to recognize it the next time and not have to re-research it. As mentioned in part 2 of this series, though in relation to account instructions, if you settle for just looking something up every time you come across it, your brain will never realize the value of remembering it. Obviously, don’t try to memorize everything, but do try to memorize some things. It will save you time in the long run, and time is money.


  1. Make an expander tool do some of the work for you. If you could be paid for 10 keystrokes while only having to take the time and energy to perform 5 of them, why wouldn’t you? There are several quality expander programs available; even MSWord’s autocorrect feature beats using nothing. Just having an expander is not enough. You have to use it, and I mean really use it! Don’t just expand the most common words dictated on your account and convince yourself that’s all it’s good for. Use it to expand phrases, sentences, headings, medications along with their dosages. Use it to set up templates and macros, to edit numbering and lists. Use it to open and close windows, correct punctuation and misspellings, and so on. If you have to hit a key on the keyboard to do something, the expander can be used to do it for you—the sky’s the limit, so don’t stop at the ceiling!

By now I’m sure you can tell there is a never-ending list of ways you can fine-tune your skills and tweak your work setting to your advantage. If you’re not happy with your paycheck, don’t just point the finger at the industry or a specific company without making an honest evaluation of your own contribution to the situation first. Once you identify an area you could improve on, really work to improve on it and then recognize your accomplishment. By doing so, you’ll feel more in control and will develop a sense of urgency and importance about your work. You’ll find yourself doing the work you love and loving the work you do!

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