Reality Check: Proofer – 1200 LPD, 24 days a month: What is your take home pay? Do all companies, in one way or another, have the same pay package? Have u ever had a pay hike in the last 5 to 10 years?
For which my instant reaction was this:
Medical transcription is not for anyone who dreams about good career progression prospects but for any lazy duck who want to make just a living from home, killing time cursing stars, and repeatedly uttering “There is no better opportunity than this for the time being for my credentials at this age!” Come out of the cocoon and look out for a world of opportunities. All you need is a change in your vision. I’m sorry for having it said harshly but that is the bitter reality.
Let me elaborate the story of medical transcription in India from the beginning, my foray into it, and why now I say “awful future prospects for medical transcription career in India.”
Around two decades ago, before the Internet became prevalent in India, medical transcription came to India, just for three factors:
The Indian economy was opening up. With less job prospects and comparatively low salaries in all other sectors at that time, the salaries of MTs were far attractive. Medical transcription companies were selling dreams that MTs could own BMWs and could lead a posh life the rest of their lives. As a result, many joined the bandwagon; don’t be surprised to hear that even some Indian doctors did! As I said earlier in an interview and in the author’s biography on this blog, it was the need of the hour for me too to jump into this bandwagon.
In the sunny days, the bottom level Indian MTs, proofers, and quality analysts shared one or one-and-a-half cents each per line. The cream was eaten up by the managements and the owners of medical transcription companies as administration expenses and profits. They got ship loads of Indians to work for pennies. Indians needed a three or sometimes even a four-tier setup to ensure quality because English was their second language but still it was affordable as the cost at each level was just a pea. On the other side, an MT in the US had a pay per line even more than all these levels combined with just a supervisory level above to monitor the workflow and tackle those blabbermouth doctors.
Trouble began with the US economy lodged in toilet and the debt clock tirelessly ticking. Every healthcare provider in the US had only a scapegoat to decrease costs, the transcription costs. They can’t reduce the salaries of doctors, nurses or rather anyone else in the healthcare chain because of having to end up with losing skilled personnel; however, not with the MTs. Rigorous outsourcing and voice recognition softwares helped to a great extent in accomplishing the mission of cutting costs. Further, the thrust of EMR under Obamacare aggravated the situation. The medical transcription companies had to further cut costs to survive. They were looking at every possible way to shrink the transcription costs, cutting intermediaries, axing US MTs etc. It’s still a great struggle for the US MTs sticking behind; many left to pursue some other career while the ones still sticking are in dilemma having a tiger by its tail.
It became a matter of survival of the fittest. Big fishes swallowed the smaller ones. Throughout this evolution, the paychecks offshore remained stagnant or dwindled in terms of inflation. In the last 10 years, every other job in the private and public sector had umpteen upward wage revisions to include the living costs in accordance with the inflation. Salaries of every job in the market have increased multiple times. Only the Indian MTs were left behind. The 10K or 20K you were receiving a decade ago has now the one-tenth of its value. Since salaries are production based, transcription is either do or die! You type, type and type to make the ends meet. I remember here the Tolstoy story “How much land does a man require?” Just six feet!
Five years back or at the most three years back, it wasn’t a pathetic situation; however, the scenario is a lot different now. With the United Progressive Alliance in power for two consecutive terms, cost of living has gone through the roof. Hyperinflation is the order of the day though the rulers call it economic growth. As a result, even illiterate cooks, truck drivers, bar benders, masons, carpenters, electricians or you name any job – all of them are earning these days more than an MT! India is short of labor these days for all those jobs or rather almost all jobs! (Just to know the gravity of labor shortage in all sectors, here is a quick interesting information for you: According to a recent survey, 2,000,000 trucks are lying idle in India for the need of drivers though a trucker can clock in 30K a month.)
You could have owned a decent home at the outskirts of an Indian city for a six digit figure a decade back which you can now get only for an eight digit figure. Your paycheck can be considered good if you can afford to own a home with 5.1 years of your median household income. Beyond that, it is seriously unaffordable either due to real estate prices being high or your income being low, according to the International Housing Affordability Survey, a yardstick recommended by World Bank and United Nations. How about medical transcription paychecks in India? Can you dare to own a home with the paychecks you receive these days? With the current paychecks and cost of living in India, you cannot own a home with your income even if you work as a medical transcriptionist for your whole life!
So by staying back in medical transcription for 10, 15, or 20K at the max, mind that you are just making a fool of yourself by pledging yourself to earn less than all those jobs that I mentioned earlier just for the sake of clinging to a white-collar job and for the laziness of working from home on a computer. Forget about those medical transcription companies that mushroomed and vanished at the speed of light. You still can win just the bread and nothing more than that throughout your life if you stay back. Instead of trying to straighten the dog’s tail, try to find the best alternative possible.
I can read your mind of obvious questions, which I am trying to answer below.
I don’t think things will improve in the future or medical transcription could fetch you enough bread throughout your lifetime. If you look at the past decade, USD/INR exchange ratio has moved from 1:39 to 1:55 now. That hasn’t done anything good for an Indian MT due to the various obvious reasons that I mentioned earlier. Moreover, if conditions are favorable and Philippines transcription companies start competing to provide medical transcription services at cheaper rates than India, all of this business could find way to that country or any other attractive destination for that reason. Moreover, as a rarest possibility if there comes a ban onshore on outsourcing confidential healthcare data overseas, which a few US politicians have been vouching for a long time, medical transcription business in India will come to a standstill. Not doomsaying but cannot be ruled out completely.
Good question. That is what I intended in my Facebook comment. Change your mindset. On the other side of the India growth story, a million other opportunities have opened up for the deserving. The only difficulty lies in identifying the right shoes to slip in. View your stint in medical transcription as a passing cloud. Improve your credentials. Keep your mind always open for new opportunities. Take a second job. Build multiple income streams. Take Internet to your advantage. Start an online business or rather any business catering to the needs of the society around you. None of you might have had an education to fit into the shoes of a medical transcriptionist, isn’t it? Fortunately, as compared to the US, almost the entire MT workforce has good credentials. So try to find a job in the discipline you earned a degree. Keep moving.
Of course yes. I am into medical transcription since 1999, and I have been working for a decade directly to a service provider in the US, transcribing anywhere from 1500 lines a day to at times even 4000+ lines a day at a competent rate.
However, the going got tough last year when my employer expressed his inability to continue providing the same pay even after staggering the paychecks for months. I had no other option than to bid bye last April. However, anticipating such fate I had already built up other income streams to cushion up on. I am less dependent on medical transcription now for my sustenance.
For youngsters, I already posted a change of thought last year that medical transcription is not suitable for newcomers. Don’t take up medical transcription as a career. Choose medical transcription only if you have limitations from choosing anything else. Choose it if you are in compulsion to work from home for any reason. Choose it for part-time extra income. Don’t fall prey to any medical transcription course luring you citing a lucrative career. If at all you join any training course, make sure that you will be absorbed to live production immediately after training. Don’t join in any course that doesn’t come with a 100% placement guarantee. Know that there are no growth prospects in this career. There won’t be any salary hikes or even any statutory employee benefits. You will just remain a contractual labor. You will not get a decent pay compared to the same effort you put elsewhere. No labor union or political party can help you in this regard as the strings are mostly beyond the borders, onshore. If you turn back and look at your accomplishments compared with that of your friends of the same age and credentials, say after 5, 10, or 15 years, you will be regretting a lot!
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