Medical Transcription Equipment: What Do You Really Need?

Student medical transcriptionists and beginner MTs often want to know what type of equipment they need to buy in order to begin transcribing. They are especially concerned about having the right equipment on hand before they begin to take on their own accounts. The fear is that they won’t have all the equipment necessary and therefore will not land the account.

I remember that being the basis of my biggest fear when I went after my first account. I was afraid that I wouldn’t know what equipment to even suggest if the doctor was using a really outdated tape system and asked me what she should be using. It’s laughable to me now: First, with most doctors’ offices you may never deal directly with the doctor. Usually it will be the office manager that you will interact with. Second, it is easy to find great digital equipment online. It takes very little time to learn how to use it. Third, most offices already have a system in place, and they’ll be telling you how it works, not the other way around. If they don’t know how, you can be the hero by studying the manual online and then showing them how to use their own equipment. It’s truly not that difficult.

I strongly recommend that you wait until you have your first job or client before you run out and purchase any equipment, other than what is needed for your training. Some doctors in smaller offices surprisingly still use micro cassettes while others use small handheld digital recorders and will transfer all files to you over the Internet.

Even knowing the above, you still probably want to know what basic medical transcription equipment consists of, so let’s look at that next.

First, you obviously will need a computer! What type of computer depends on many factors. I am often asked by people who want to become MTs if they can use their Apple Mac computers. In most cases the answer is no, but there are a few exceptions. If you decide to work for a large national transcription company, an Apple computer will not be compatible with their software. However, if you decide to only have your own accounts and take on work from local doctors you may be able to use your Mac computer. You can use the word processing software that your doctor’s office prefers on your Mac (almost always Microsoft Word), so that’s no problem at all. But what about the foot pedal and the playback software that you’ll need to hear the digital recording? Great news there:

For the last few years all Mac computers have been made with Intel processors. This means that your Mac can run on a Windows operating system as well as with your usual OS X software. You’ll need special software that allows you to go back and forth between the two operating systems, but once it’s installed it’s quite easy to do this. This means that you can buy any foot pedal or digital dictation software that would work on a regular PC and have it work just great on your Mac, too!

In addition, as Macs are becoming more popular, there are also foot pedals and digital dictation software that are meant to work on either Macs or PCs.

In addition to the above, there are other forms of medical transcription equipment that you should know about. A good headset is the one of the most important pieces of equipment you will buy. It needs to be comfortable, have great volume control, and be easy and fast to replace. A quick search online will turn up dozens of choices with many reviews.

New MTs will often hear the term “C-phone” and wonder what that piece of equipment does. It’s simply a digital receiver/phone that accesses digital dictation over a phone line. These are becoming more rare as digital dictation is so easy to transfer over the Internet, but you still will see job openings from time to time state that you need to have this equipment. Don’t buy it until you land the job, though, as you may not need it anywhere else! This holds true for just about all medical transcription equipment. Many transcription companies and hospitals will provide you with a computer, foot pedal, and even headset if you are an employee. Don’t make a huge investment in equipment until you know what you will need in your first position. You have plenty of time to acquire all that you will eventually need.

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