Dr. Zeba Hisam
(Published in DAWN Magazine on Sunday December 31, 2000)

The experience of working as a supervisor to train medical transcriptionist was an interesting one. I was on a break to study for the FCPS exam. I wanted to do an easy job, which could give me enough time to study and of course, the money to pay the fees for exams.

I had been reading a lot about medical transcription and observing increasing awareness of it in general public. Every Sunday, in classified sections there are a number of jobs in MT (medical transcription) vacancies for doctors, both from private or government sectors. There have been many training centers for medical transcriptionists. The government has now realized that this is an enormous business. India is already doing this business worth millions of dollars. Now the government is inviting big IT firms and companies to facilitate MT training. Mainly the government is inviting doctors and science graduates only to get the training.

What this job requires is as follows, in America, the doctors dictate their patients’ histories and reports, and record them on Dictaphones which are connected through the satellites and received in the transcription units where medical transcribers listen to it with headphones in computers and type on the keyboards. This written data is then sent back via the satellites to the hospitals in America where doctors need it. This job is a highly paid one in America so it has been diverted to the third world countries where cheaper rates are paid. For this job, the basic criteria are a good understanding of English language and familiarity with American accent. With this quality anyone can do the job easily and can earn a considerably good amount of salary.

These candidates need a short period of training for learning medical terminology which is alien to both Science and Arts graduates, so in my opinion, there should not be any demarcation among them as both can do the job easily if their command of English is good. I conducted interviews for candidates for this job and found that young boys and girls, who are just B.Com, B.A, B.Sc. or even intermediates with good English, can do this job easily. I was amazed that these guys started picking the medical terms within a month of training, All of us know that unemployment is so prevalent and the job market is so constrained in our country that highly qualified people are diverted to do this job. There were M. Phils’ in Pharmacy, M.Sc in Microbiology, MBAs and MBBS applying for training as medical transcriptionists.

I think the government should hire only doctors as trainers and these in turn should train the bunch of young people of any educational background who can fill the vacancies of MT.

Only then we can educate the general public for an entirely new IT based knowledge and increase the rate of employment among the young jobless graduates. The government can find doctors who are willing to do this job as trainers, while having a break from hospital for a brief period for any reason and should not try to make only doctors into transcriptionist. This job can be done by anyone but it has to be checked by a doctor always because nobody can become 100 per cent accurate. All transcriptionist need to take references from medical dictionary and American drug index as the trade names of drugs are different in America.

As mentioned earlier, the basic criteria is good English language and familiarity with American accent, in addition, basic knowledge of computer and typing are also necessary for this job but the latter two qualities can be gained easily after joining the training of medical transcription. So if somebody does not have these qualities, should not hesitate to learn Medical Transcription.

I found the only hindrance in selecting candidates is mostly their poor level of English, which is the result of being poorly taught at primary level. In addition, people don’t have the habit of reading books and referring to the thesaurus and dictionary. As a result, the vocabulary is limited and grammar is pathetic. I think those who love to watch English movies and read English books and enjoy them, are the best candidates for being in Medical Transcription. Or after learning medical transcription, these people can enjoy the English movies more as each dialogue is understood very clearly.