The Pros and Cons of Starting a Medical Transcription Business

Nurse holding medical records
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Medical transcription involves taking recorded reports from doctors and other medical professionals and transcribing them into written documents that become a permanent part of patients' medical records. The job also includes editing documents created with speech-recognition computer software.

Some medical transcriptionists work for medical practices and/or hospitals and do work only for the doctors at those facilities. Others work for services that provide medical transcription for medical practices and hospitals. It's also possible to work independently, securing your own client base.

If you enjoy working by yourself in a quiet environment for long stretches of time, this might be a good opportunity for starting your own business.

The Pros

Consider these reasons for starting a medical transcription business.

  • Startup costs should be relatively low, especially if you are operating your business out of your home. Aside from standard office supplies, basic startup costs can be limited to a quality home computer, quality headphones, and transcription software, which can cost as little as $20 per year.
  • No storefront is needed. Your base of operations likely will be your home, and you'll be able to deduct the expenses for your home office when you file your taxes.
  • The average medical transcriptionist earned a little more than $17 per hour in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so there's potential for good money depending on how many hours you choose to work and how many clients you are able to secure.
  • You can choose how much or little you want to work. Your business can be a side job to earn extra cash, or it can be a full-time career once you've built up a large enough client base.

The Cons

Consider these potential challenges you might experience when starting a medical transcription business.

  • In order to secure clients, you'll need to be licensed as a medical transcriptionist from a certified training program.
  • Marketing your business can add significant costs up front. In order to acquire clients, you need to let them know you are out there. This means networking with medical professionals in your community in addition to advertising and establishing a presence on the web. 
  • Despite increased demand for healthcare, the Bureau of Labor Statistics actually predicts a decline in demand for medical transcriptionists between 2016 and 2026 due to technological advances and outsourcing.
  • It's not enough just to be a proficient typist with good grammar and research skills. You need a functional understanding of basic medical terms and jargon.
  • In addition to common guides for grammar, you'll need to invest in several healthcare-related guidebooks, including a medical dictionary, a drug index, and medical abbreviations, among others depending on your specific clients.
  • The bulk of the work is computer-based, which can put a strain on your eyes, wrists, and back, so a comfortable home office is likely a necessary investment.
  • Deadlines can be tight, and if you have a lot of clients who need work done in short order, you might have to consider hiring an assistant.