The future of medical transcription

Update: Nov 5th, 2013

by: laura naumann

october 4, 2011

As owner operator of a medical transcription resource site I am often queried about the stability of the profession.  Many medical transcriptionists are concerned about the implementation of speech recognition transcription (SRT) software and outsourcing.

The last decade has brought about massive change in the medical transcription industry but the future of medical transcription remains bright.  Based on US Department of Labor statistics more than 100,000 Americans are employed in medical transcription and the demand for experienced medical transcriptionists is expected to increase approximately 15% throughout this decade.  This is largely due to longer life expectancies and increasingly complex medical procedures and terminology.


Long-time medical transcriptionists have witnessed extraordinary change in their methods of operations.  Sophisticated computers, scanners and printers have replaced the typewriters and carbon paper of yesteryear.  As personal computers became widely available transcriptionists began setting up shop in their own homes.  In fact the majority of medical transcriptionists who regularly visit are remote employees and this number is likely to increase significantly as hospitals across the nation explore outsourcing possibilities.


A recent example of transcription outsourcing is Washington’s Whidbey General Hospital where the entire staff of medical transcriptionists was let go and transcription services were turned over to Webmedx.  Whidbey General predicts the move will slash over 1.5 million from their budget in the next 5 years alone.  With that type of financial incentive I anticipate other hospitals will follow suit and consider outsourcing their transcription services.


Speech recognition transcription software could have a major impact in the world of medical transcription and is one that has many transcriptionists worried about their jobs.  SRT theoretically could eliminate the need for medical transcriptionists.  The medical transcriptionist becomes obsolete the day a verbatim typed report can be automatically generated from a dictated voice file.  However, there are many, many hurdles to be cleared before software of this caliber becomes available.


The biggest problem with applying SRT to the medical field lies in the complicated terminology used by physicians.  Medical terms are often formed by the root word for some type of condition with a prefix or suffix that further defines the condition.  The addition or omission of a single letter can totally change the meaning, as in symptomatic and asymptomatic.  With so many possible variations to an already unusual root word there are several times during the course of my workday where I rewind and/or slow down a dictation file to ensure that I am getting the right terminology.


The accuracy of SRT was the subject of a recent study involving radiology reports.  Over 600 reports were analyzed, half of which were prepared by a medical transcriptionist and half of which were automatically generated by SRT, with the error rate in the SRT reports an astounding 800% higher than in the transcriptionists’ reports.  The study emphasized the need for experienced medical transcriptionists in the role of editors for these automatically generated reports.


The medical transcription industry generates $25 billion in worldwide revenue annually and the field is predicted to grow steadily for several years to come.  Current trends in the field indicate that an increasing number of medical transcriptionists will transition to telecommuting and that speech recognition transcription is here to stay.  In order to ensure future success in an ever-changing industry today’s transcriptionists should educate themselves in SRT editing and start equipping a home office.


Update 8/6/2013 – As I have mentioned on other pages I got my medical transcription training through Career Step online. Career Step has recently released an e-book exploring the myths and the truth (as they see it) on the future of medical transcription.  It’s a free download and may be worth your time. You can find it at










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