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How Much does it Cost to Outsource Medical Transcription?

Most healthcare providers know that outsourcing their medical transcription offers significant cost savings. Instead of providing the equipment and technology for in-house transcribers, and paying full-time staff salary, benefits, and personal time, you simply pay a service a set fee for the work performed. You don't have to worry about covering the workload of employees who call out sick or take vacation days. You also don't have to manage equipment upgrades, office space, or any of the other headaches inherent when you employ people directly.

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As with many outsource opportunities, however, there is no industry standard as regards pricing. Transcription services employ a variety of pricing measures, including by the keystroke, by the line, and by the page. Others charge according to the number of minutes of dictation to be transcribed. Even when two companies charge the same way, such as by the line, how much they charge varies. However, to get an idea for budgeting, there are averages you can expect to see. These vary according to your location and the level of skill and service provided by the medical transcription company.

What Are Transcription Pricing Methods?

One of the reasons it's so hard to compare transcription proposals is the different pricing methods companies use. If you're looking at a proposal of $0.20 per line, how does that compare to Those are the three most common methods, but you also see by the keystroke, which typically costs around 10 to 15 percent more than by the line.

Per Line Pricing

"By the line" is a bit of a misnomer. Most transcription providers who charge by the line actually charge by the character, as they define a line as consisting of 65 characters. This protects clients from paying the price of a full line of text when it has only a few words. In practice, pricing by the line looks like this:

Number of Lines = Total Number of Characters / 65

Cost = Number of Lines X Rate

This is the most common pricing method in medical transcription. Prices run anywhere from $0.07 per line to around $0.20 per line, though the average is around $0.13 per line.

One of the reasons for this pricing method's popularity is the variables in formatting between clients (the medical providers seeking transcription services). Some use wide margins for easy readability, others use more narrow margins. You also see differences in font size and type, which dramatically influence how many lines or characters fit on a page. These variances create enormous discrepancies in page counts. Format differences cause a 500-word document to cover anything from a single page to three pages or more.

Per Minute of Dictation Pricing

Second on the list of common pricing methods is per minute of dictation. This avoids all variables in formatting and the need to count characters (though most programs perform that function for you). Clients simply pay a given amount for every minute of dictation they send to be transcribed. So, if the transcription company charges $2.50 per minute, a 10-minute recording costs $25 to transcribe.

To compare this cost to per line pricing, you speak around 13 to 15 lines of text every minute. That means that, in 10 minutes, you speak 140 lines of text (on average) and would pay around $18.20, assuming an average rate of $0.13 per line.

Per Page Pricing

This pricing method is more likely to be found with a home-based transcriptionist, who typically charges the same whether it's a full or partial page. Formatting choices, such as font type and size and your margins dictate the number of pages. You may be tempted to reduce the amount of white space on a page, but this negatively impacts readability. You're better off using a traditional format that gives you a more legible document, as well as one that looks more professional.

Per Keystroke Pricing

Paying per keystroke is far less common, though you may find it at the larger medical transcription companies that specialize is handling hospitals. Counting keystrokes isn't as obvious as it seems. For example, the word Keystroke isn't nine keystrokes. Capitalizing a letter adds a keystroke, as does bolding it. Therefore, Keystroke is actually 19 keystrokes. The transcriptionist's program includes a feature that counts the number of keystrokes in a document.

Comparing Pricing Methods

If you request price quotes from multiple transcription providers, you may wonder how these prices compare. The following estimates assume a 5-minute dictation file.

  • Per line: Average 14 lines per minute and $0.13 per line = $9.10
  • Per minute: Average rate of $2.50 per minute = $12.50
  • Per page: Average rate of $3.70 per page = $11.10
  • Per keystroke: Averages around 12.5 percent higher than per line = $10.23

There are a lot of assumptions here, but you can see that per line is typically the least expensive option for medical providers. Again, rates vary, but this helps you compare proposals if you get to the point where quality and reputation between vendors are comparable and it's up to price to make your final decision.

What Additional Factors Affect Cost?

Most medical transcription services have standard pricing, but certain factors, such as recording quality, may increase costs due to requiring more time to create an accurate transcription of the audio file.

  • Audio issues: When there are issues with the audio, the transcriptionist and proofer have to listen to the same recording numerous times to transcribe and quality-check the file. Common issues include degraded recordings, heavy background noise, and even the speaker's accent or vocal clarity (such as mumbling).
  • Multiple speakers: Files with multiple speakers often cost more, due to the confusing nature of differentiating between numerous voices (especially when two or more sound similar – it isn't always obvious which one is speaking).
  • Special formatting: Requests for special formatting, such as logos, headers and footers, and page or line numbers, influence the total price.
  • Time stamping: This is a separate charge and typically only performed upon request.
  • Turnaround time: How quickly do you expect work to be completed? The faster you want items returned, the more you generally pay.

Obviously, price plays a large role in choosing the right company to outsource your medical transcription. However, quality and reliability are equally important. If one of your proposals is significantly lower than the others, you may want to look more closely at the provider. The company may be new to the field and looking to grow its client base, but it could also be charging what its services are worth (in other words, you get what you pay for). Saving money is great, but typically not worth the hassle and delays when you regularly need to send work back to address errors. Research the companies bidding your work to ensure you consider more than price.

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