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What Medical Transcriptionists Do

Medical transcriptionists listen to voice recordings that physicians and other health professionals make and convert them into written reports. They interpret medical terminology and abbreviations in preparing patients’ medical histories, discharge summaries, and other documents. The documents they produce become part of a patient’s permanent file.


Medical transcriptionists typically do the following:

Medical transcriptionists use audio playback equipment, often including a headset and foot pedal—to control the recording playback speed—that are connected to their computer. They use word-processing and other specialized software, as well as medical reference materials as needed.

To do their work, medical transcriptionists must become familiar with medical words, anatomy and physiology, diagnostic procedures, pharmacology, and treatment assessments. Their ability to understand and correctly transcribe what the health professional has said is critical to reducing the chance that patients will get ineffective or even harmful treatments. They are part of the team that ensures high-quality patient care.

Medical transcriptionists who work in doctors’ offices may have other duties, such as answering phones or greeting patients.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition