A medical transcriptionist is a skilled typist, excellent at interpreting what they read or hear, and a good grammarian. They also have to have strong familiarity with medical language and terms. Further, medical transcriptionists must be able to take what they hear and edit it, transform it, or make it logical without changing relevant details or medical information.
Medical transcriptionists may work for doctors' offices, insurance companies, individual doctors, or for hospitals. Their primary job is to transcribe dictated material into clear and understandable text, generally for the purpose of charting information on patients. In order to do this, the medical transcriptionist must be able to interpret what he or she hears or reads, since not all doctors or medical workers create clear transcriptions. It’s not uncommon for medical workers to have conversations in the midst of a transcription, give directions to ignore parts of a transcription, or to leave out some relevant details that will make charting on a patient complete. When this occurs, a medical transcriptionist may have to chat with doctors regarding what they meant, but more often, they have to figure out what medical workers meant with minimal contact with the person who dictated the original material
Much of the recording that the medical transcriptionist interprets is based on either recorded tape or Dictaphone machines. This means that the medical transcriptionist must be able to understand basic dictation and short hand. More recently, the trend in dictation has been to use voice-operated software, but this doesn’t leave the medical transcriptionist without a job. Instead, material dictated to a computer has to be read, edited, interpreted, correctly punctuated, and carefully rewritten so that material is clear for anyone else reading it. Voice recognition software does not currently have the ability to correctly interpret information, and will naturally transcribe everything that is said. Medical transcriptionists may be saved a little typing when interpreting such programs, but they still must find a way to most clearly state the doctor’s intent while removing all irrelevant material.
The key to being an effective medical transcriptionist lies in the worker’s ability to decide what is relevant. This means that not only terms must be recognizable, but they must also be understood. A transcriptionist may not be able to decide what’s important without a basic knowledge of what medical terms mean. There are many training courses for the transcriptionist that focus on understanding medical terms and phrases, as well as learning common slang for these phrases, which help the transcriptionist do his/her work correctly and effectively.