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What is Medical Transcription?

SyberScribe AUTHOR: SyberScribe, July 1st, 2014

Medical transcription is the process of turning the audio reports of medical professionals into text format. It involves playing back the audio and typing the words into a computer, usually as fast as they are being spoken in the recording. Consequently, it is a highly skilled profession, requiring fast, accurate typing and a sound knowledge of medical terminology.

History of medical transcription

Before the digital age, medical practitioners wrote everything down on paper. After seeing a patient, they would make notes in their file, often in their infamously indecipherable handwriting. These notes were laborious to write, often hard to understand and time consuming to retrieve once they had been filed away.

Then in the 1960s, early forms of transcription began to appear, in particular in the manufacturing industry. While transcription was not overly successful in manufacturing, the medical profession soon saw its potential and adopted the process as their own.

Voice recorders evolved from tape to cassette and finally to digital, with voice transcription machines becoming increasingly more sophisticated. Doctors were able to speak their notes into a handheld voice recorder and then pass them onto their receptionist to have them transcribed into text. This saved time and reduced the likelihood of diagnostic errors due to poor handwriting.

Medical transcription today

With the arrival of the Internet, medical transcription took a great leap forward. Whereas once the doctor had to physically pass the recording onto his receptionist to be transcribed, now the digital voice recordings could be sent by email or data streaming to the place of transcription.

This meant that the transcription no longer needed to be done in house, and so outsourced medical transcription services were born. Patients’ records could be transcribed and stored online, where they could be accessed and shared by authorised medical professionals almost instantaneously, making diagnosis and treatment far more timely and efficient.

Importance of medical transcription

The most important role that medical transcription fulfils is to provide accurate medical records; something that hand-written doctors’ notes often failed to achieve. The reason the records must be accurate is so that another medical practitioner could read them and immediately be able to take over the diagnosis and treatment of a patient based on those notes.

They would instantly know the patient’s medical history, previous examination findings, diagnoses, treatments, and prescribed medications. In a world where clinics are now the norm and the family doctor is becoming a thing of the past, this kind of access to accurate medical records is becoming essential.

And in order for these records to be accurate, medical transcribers are highly trained professionals. Not only are they fast, accurate typists, but they are also trained on an ongoing basis to ensure they are up to date with current medical terminology, drugs and pathology.

Future of medical transcription

In the past decade, growing compliance regulations and increasing litigation against professionals, including medical professionals, has caused the demand for accurate, accessible medical records to almost triple. And with an ageing population putting ever greater demands on our healthcare systems, medical transcription has never been more necessary than now.

Possibly in the future, speech recognition technologies will remove the need for medical transcription, but speech recognition is still in its infancy, with many hurdles yet to be overcome. So for the time-being, medical transcription will continue to be essential.