Medical Transcription: Antidote to Brain Drain?

Four years after he graduated from a prestigious university here, Mark Dicaleng landed a job in a medical transcription (MT) company. He has only been with the company for a year but he is earning a five-digit income.

By Lyn V. Ramo
Northern Dispatch

BAGUIO CITY — One need not go abroad to experience a dollar-earning job. And one need not go abroad to experience discrimination from American clients.

Four years after he graduated from a prestigious university here, Mark Dicaleng, who is from Besao and Sagada towns in Mountain Province (394 kms from Manila), landed a job at Top Outsource Performance, Inc. (TOP), a medical transcription (MT) company. He has only been with the company for a year but he is earning a five-digit income.

“At least, he did not leave the country,” said Bryce Fabros, a business executive at TOP. She is also with the Center for Technical Excellence Integrated School, Inc. (CTEISI), an MT training school based here.

Dicaleng is content with his job. He said he quit his medical training because he found that his course, BS Biology, was not his cup of tea after all. He started as a medical transcriptionist and is now an editor at TOP. He sees to it that the reports are accurate and complete and of good quality.

“By quality we mean the grammar is correct, the spelling and medical terms accurate,” Dicaleng said. The reports, he said, has to be 98% accurate or the client in the U.S. would reject them.

Fabros said an MT job requires trained ears, mastery of grammar and punctuation and IT knowledge.

MTs, she said, are “practitioners of communications, masters of grammar and punctuation who practice discretion, and are magicians of medical technology.”

Work in the MT company starts at 7 a.m. when he enters the server. He has to submit at least 3,000 lines of transcription a day.

Mark and other medical transcriptionists in the Philippines sleep in time just as their clients in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand are waking up to receive their outputs. The transcribed materials become medical records of patients in the clients’ hospitals, ready for submission to either the health insurance companies or the hospital itself.

Importing exploitation

Fabros said it is lamentable that many medical graduates leave the country. While she said she could not blame them, she salutes those who choose to stay in the country to practice their profession. Fabros questioned the training they got that makes them leave their professions for a more lucrative job abroad.

“At least as medical transcriptionists, they stay in the country,” she said, adding that no family is being left behind and the breadwinner is able to work.

But while it is true that MTs in the Philippines get a living pay, their American counterparts get much, much more for the same kind and amount of job.

“Our American counterparts get $36 per hour of service while we only get a pittance of around $300 to $500 per month,” Fabros said. Nevertheless, she said, it is not at all bad for the MTs here.

Sunrise business, up for the killing

There are only 37 firms engaged in medical transcriptions in the Philippines. The $150 billion business started to boom three to four years ago although it has been around for over 25 years now. The Philippines gets only 1.7% share in the business, Fabros said.

As a new business endeavor, it is here to stay – in the next ten years at least, said Fabros. She said she is committed to train graduates of any four-year discipline. A six-month MT training requires some P15,000 to P30,000 in tuition, which Fabros guarantees will be returned to the investor in four to five months after the training.

In the Philippines, only St. Luke’s Hospital has started getting the services of medical transcriptionists.

Fabros is optimistic that Philippine MTs can compete in the global market as more and more prospective clients in other continents have started communicating with the Philippine MT alliances, of which CTEISI is a member. (

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