Some healthcare providers rely on medical transcriptionists to convert their audio statements to written form. This enables doctors and other medical professionals to handle important tasks such as updating their patient’s medical records or supplying patients with necessary documents (like discharge instructions or a referral to a specialist, for example) without having to take the time out of their busy schedules to sit down and write these things out themselves.
If you offer transcription services to professionals in the medical field, improving skills such as typing speed can help you complete more work in less time. Increasing your dictation accuracy also helps to ensure that the words you transcribe are correct, which is important whether it involves recording a patient’s diagnosis or if providing treatment advice.
But how do you improve medical transcription skills such as these? Here are five tips to get you started.
Focus on Transcribing One Sentence at a Time
Have you ever had a conversation with someone and, instead of focusing on what they are telling you, your mind wanders ahead while planning what you’re going to say next? When this occurs, you can easily lose track of what is being said. You might also miss important details, decreasing the accuracy with which you can recall certain information. If you aren’t careful, the same can happen when transcribing medical data.
Instead of trying to figure out what is coming up next in the audio recording, focus on transcribing just one sentence at a time. Consider each sentence as a separate block of information. This can help prevent you from inadvertently omitting some of the information provided because your brain got ahead of you. This can also create a more accurate dictation result since you are paying attention to each word as you transcribe.
The great thing about working on this skill is that it can also benefit you when having your own conversations with family and friends. It helps you develop a level of mindfulness and presence that allows you to be fully engaged in the talk that you’re having. Being fully engaged means that you aren’t distracted, which can help to strengthen the relationship.
If you’re wondering how to practice transcribing one sentence at a time, working on your self-awareness can help. If you notice that your mind starts to wander to what may be next, bring it back to where you are. Stay in the present and try to take in every bit of information only as it is provided.
Because your level of focus might be a bit greater than what it is currently used to, it can also be helpful to take regular breaks. This gives your brain some downtime to relax and regroup.
Setting a timer to go off every 30 to 60 minutes is a good way to remind yourself to stand up and walk away from your transcription project for a moment or two. Go for a walk around the block, do some light stretches, or simply step outside and get some fresh air. It doesn’t matter so much what you do, only that you give your mind a little break every so often.
Accuracy is More Important Than Speed
Medical transcription speed is important because it allows you to complete more projects in less time. However, accuracy is more important than speed, especially when someone’s health and wellness are on the line.
Some studies have found that transcription errors can be fairly common, especially when it comes to medications prescribed within a hospital setting. For example, one piece of research analyzed 287 charts with a combined total of 558 opportunities for error. Almost one-third of these opportunities (29.9%) did, in fact, contain an error. In a majority of these instances (52%), the error resulted in the patient not receiving the medication he or she was prescribed.1
Putting yourself in the shoes of the patient, imagine being prescribed a medication that can help you feel better or works to manage a chronic health condition, yet failing to get it simply because the person transcribing your charts was more concerned with their speedy typing skills than being accurate. This can be not only frustrating, but it could also have damaging effects on the patient’s health due to delaying effective treatments.
The Transcription Certification Institute further stresses that accuracy is also important because it impacts your credibility.2 If healthcare providers cannot trust that the words they are recording are being reduced to writing exactly as they are said, they may choose to hire a different medical transcriptionist – someone who provides this greater level of care and attention.
How do you know if your speed is compromising your accuracy? Transcribe for 5 to 10 minutes as you normally do. Then go back and see how many errors you have. If there are a lot of mistakes, it might be time to slow down and pay more attention to the information that you’re working to record in writing.
Another potential sign is if it feels like you’re pushing so hard to get through the transcription that you feel hurried or anxious. If you notice that you’re typing so fast that you can feel stressed or like you have to “get it done immediately or else,” focus on consciously slowing yourself down.
Take a couple of deep breaths, relax your shoulders, and start to work again. Playing soft, slow music in the background may also help you type at a slower pace as you strive to match the slower, more methodical flow of the melodies.
Know Your Medical Terminology
If you have limited knowledge of terms that are commonly used in the medical field, this can make your job as a transcriptionist more difficult. It’s like trying to teach English when you don’t know how to spell that well or if you don’t understand how to use proper grammar. You can only get so far before you become stuck.
Admittedly, learning medical terminology may feel easier said than done as there are thousands of words that can be used in this field. While you don’t have to know all of them, being familiar with the ones that may be used more often is a great place to start.
Ultimate Medical Academy (UMA) can help with this as we’ve published a few of the terms relevant to billing and coding. This post explains what aging means (hint: it has to do with the age of a bill versus the age of a patient), what a deductible is, and how scrubbing is a process that involves checking claims for errors and not just what doctors do before getting ready to perform a surgical procedure.
Part of knowing medical terminology also involves understanding some of the most common abbreviations and what they stand for. In our Beginner’s Guide to Healthcare Terminology, we present a few to consider, such as explaining what an EHR is, what HIPAA is and what it means, and what an ICD-10 code is as well as how it’s used.
Another way to learn these common medical terms and abbreviations is to take a course that teaches this type of information. For instance, many of UMA’s online and blended healthcare programs and degrees include some type of medical terminology course. This provides students access to the words and phrases they’re most likely to encounter when working in the healthcare field.
As a medical transcriptionist, learning this terminology provides some insight into the terms you might be translating from voice to word. It also helps you better understand what you are tasked with transcribing, potentially making it easier to assess whether you may or may not be transcribing it accurately.
Ramp Up Your Typing Speed
Once you have your accuracy where you want it, the next step is to work on increasing your typing speed. If you are paid by project or by volume, increasing the speed with which you type can help you increase your income.
Even if you are paid hourly or have a pre-determined salary, working faster can help you stand out from other medical transcriptionists. When employers recognize your ability to get more done in less time, this may take you to the front of the line the next time a promotion is available.
If you are self-employed and work directly with healthcare providers, providing both speed and accuracy can make you their go-to medical transcriptionist. It’s like when you find a brand that offers the product quality and level of customer service that you want. This inspires a sense of loyalty to that brand that can lead to a lifelong business-consumer relationship.
How do you ramp up your typing speed? Generally speaking, the more we practice something, the faster we get at it. So, if you’re new to medical transcription, your speed will likely increase as you begin to gain more experience.
Other ways to improve typing speed include learning how to touch type, which Ratatype (an online typing tutor) explains is “the idea that each finger has its own area on the keyboard.”3 Touch typing begins by sitting with the correct posture (back straight, elbows at a right angle, head tilted slightly forward, and keeping your eyes 45-70 cm from the computer screen). Next, work to teach your fingers which letters and symbols they are responsible for, which are generally the ones on the keys located directly above or below where that finger is placed on the keyboard.
Ratatype also suggests not looking at the keyboard when you type, keeping your hands in the same relative position as you type, and paying more attention to the ring and little finger since these two digits are “considerably underdeveloped.”3
To help monitor your progress, take a typing test today and use it as a baseline. Every few weeks, retake the test to see whether you’ve improved in speed without sacrificing accuracy. Several online sites offer this ability at no cost. Speed Typing Online is one that gives you text to type for one minute, then provides the number of words you typed in that time and your accuracy percentage. But there are other online options available as well.
Check Your Work with a Critical Eye
Like with any type of writing, proofreading what you’ve written provides the opportunity to correct any mistakes before submitting the final product. Taking the time to do this same type of in-depth proofreading before turning over your transcribed medical data offers the same benefit.
Remember that the information you are transcribing is important and a mistake can be costly to a patient’s health. Making sure it is accurate can help keep their medical records accurate while also ensuring that they have the information they need to take the next steps in their treatment.
When checking your work, read it out loud word for word. This makes it easier to notice when words may be missing or if they’ve been inputted in places where they don’t belong.
Also, ask yourself if what you’ve written makes sense. Again, this is where it is helpful to know basic medical terminology and/or terminology specific to the medical information that you transcribe. The better you understand what a word, phrase, or abbreviation means, the easier it becomes to notice if it is used appropriately or if you wrote one word but meant another, potentially changing the meaning or the advice of the information transcribed.
Want to Build Your Medical Transcription Skills?
Following these tips can help you build upon your skills as a medical transcriptionist. Another way to improve and strengthen these skills is with an educational program designed to increase your knowledge of medical terminology, healthcare communication, anatomy, physiology, and other topic areas relevant to this particular healthcare role.
UMA offers two options that can assist with this: a Medical Administrative Assistant diploma and a Health Sciences – Medical Administrative Assistant associate degree. Both of these programs are provided online and include instruction in the topic areas important to medical transcription.
1Fahima F et al. Transcription Errors Observed in a Teaching Hospital. Archives of Iranian Medicine. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19249889/
2Transcription Certification Institute. Why Transcription Accuracy Has So Much Importance? https://www.transcriptioncertificationinstitute.org/blog/transcription-accuracy-level-importance
3Ratatype. Learn How to Touch Type. https://www.ratatype.com/learn/