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Work@home

Vidya Srinivasa Rao | February 05, 2003 12:47 IST

With several transcription companies setting up their base in India, medical transcription has become a lucrative and feasible option for those looking for home-based careers

Vatsala Bhatt, a nutritionist in a well-known health club in Bangalore, quit her job two years ago when she had a baby. Unable to move out, she started looking for a home-based career. She found the perfect option- medical transcription.

It worked out well for Vatsala, who now works for about six hours at home and makes Rs 10,000 per month or so. She also gets time to spend with her daughter.

Vatsala is one among the many who discovered the comfort of working from home and be independent. Until recently home-based medical transcription was popular only among US based home transcriptionists. Now it's slowly gaining a foothold in India. That's good news for people who are compelled to work from home, either for health or for family reasons, and also for people who are looking at a second job to supplement their income.

The system here works on two models. In some companies, which offer 'work-from-home' opportunities transcriptionists can opt to work out of home once they have reached the required level of proficiency.

What is medical transcription?

Medical transcription is the process where one accurately and swiftly transcribes medical records dictated by doctors and others, including history and physical reports, clinic notes, office notes, operative reports, consultation notes, discharge summaries, letters, psychiatric evaluations, laboratory reports, x-ray reports and pathology reports.

It involves receiving dictation by tape, digital system or voice file, and using earphones, a foot pedal for start-stop control and a word processing program. It sometimes includes the use of a printer and sometimes a modem. A variety of word-processing systems are used. It requires good listening and language skills, computer skills and knowledge of medical terms.

Read this FAQ
for more information.

In the second model, the person willing to work from home pays the company a non-refundable deposit in the range of Rs.10, 000 or so. The company then installs a whole suite of licensed software in his/her home PC. The deposit is collected to cover the software costs and to establish the transcriptionist's commitment levels.

It makes a lot of sense for companies to allow employees to work from home. According to Sreekumar, programme co-ordinator of Spryance, "Greater quality control is possible with home transcriptionists." Boston based Spryance set shop in India in 2000 with the prime intention of promoting home-based transcription.

According to Anand Sanjeev, location head of Acusis Software, this model works well: "After the initial non-refundable deposit, we don't charge for software renewals."

Acusisis a Pittsburgh based medical transcription company and has recently opened three offices in Bangalore, Mysore and Chennai. They offer home-based transcription work and so far have hired more than 150 home transcriptionists (mostly women) in the three cities. According to the CEO of Acusis, David Iwenski, India was selected to set up their business because of the country's high literacy rate and excellent English language skills.

Acusis has their own software called Acusuite, which allows the candidate to access an encrypted platform to download the .wav files (audio files) and then upload Word files. The software also contains dictionary and glossary of medical terms along with an error-checking module.

Companies like Spryance (Mumbai) and iQ infotech (Chennai) also work in the same way. However, they have no company-specific software. Candidates are simply given user name and password that allows them to access files from the company site. A team of in-house transcriptionists monitors the work of home-based transcriptionists to weed out possible errors.

Home transcriptionists are allowed to retain files for a maximum of six hours from the time of download. The editing starts as soon as they upload the files. It is very important to stick to deadlines. In case of sudden problems, like power failure, most companies allow the transcriptionist to work from their offices.

Says Radha Sridhar, a medical transcriptionist in Bangalore, who opted to work from home after her marriage: "I download my files at about 7 am and start work at 8.30 am after my husband leaves for work. I upload the files by 3:00 pm."

What you need:

To start as a home-based transcriptionist you need
have:

1. A Windows PC with at least
the following configurations:
Pentium IV, 256 MB SDRAM,
20 GB hard disk, 52X
CDROMdrive, sound card
withamplifier,Internet
access.

2. Stereo headphones

3.
56.6 kbps external modem

4.
Foot pedal

4. UPS

5. Licensed software- English
dictionary, medicaldictionary
drugs dictionary, medical
spellchecker, equipment
glossary, abbreviation
dictionary, etc.

Pre requisites
Companies prefer candidates with experience of at least 18 months. However, talented freshers can get in, provided they do well in the test. The candidate must be a degree holder (preferably in science), excellent English comprehension, good listening skills, and should have fast typing skills.

The candidates are put through an initial screening test followed by a comprehensive editing and language test. Successful candidates go live after a week of professional training after which the payment starts. The candidate has to keep abreast of the latest 'Americanisms' and medical terms. A mis-spelt word can cause more damage than offending the professional sensibilities of a grammarian it could cost somebody his life.

Payment
Transcriptionists who work from home are paid on the basis of speed and accuracy. The pay ranges from 60 paisa to Rs.1.25 per line depending on the accuracy.

Hari Das, who paid Rs.10, 000 deposit, has no regrets."I got my money back well within two months," he says. It is easy to average about 500 lines a day and a transcriptionist with an accuracy rate of 98 per cent and an output of 800 lines per day can earn nearly Rs 25000, working 26 days a month.

Radha says she now earns about Rs. 20,000 a month; more than what she used to earn earlier. "When I worked from office, I used to get a monthly salary. Now I am paid per line."

Once you have honed your listening skills to hit 99-100 per cent accuracy level, you can reach the editor stage, with higher pays and less tedious work. Companies like Spryance already employ home-based editors.

However, one must not forget that working from home will involve overheads. There will be telephone, Internet and electricity charges. Also, tax will be deducted at source.
Potential
According to Nasscom, medical transcription is projected as the India's fourth largest foreign exchange earners in about five years. If the figuresare to be believed, medical transcription will employ more than 50,000 people by 2008. Very good news for people looking out for flexible home-based careers.



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