How to Calculate the Overall Error Rate in Medical Transcription

Some medical transcriptionists also use speech recognition technology.
Some medical transcriptionists also use speech recognition technology. (Image: green typewriter image by timur1970 from

Medical transcriptionists typically listen to dictated recordings made by medical professionals and create text files from the material. They use a headset and a special pedal for controlling the recording speed as they type. A good transcriptionist makes few mistakes, but no one's perfect. Typical errors include misspellings or wrongly inserted words. Since transcription errors occur on single words, you can determine a transcriptionist's overall error rate by calculating the percentage of words misspelled or misheard. Although more elaborate systems are available, this method provides a quick way for supervisors to evaluate the accuracy of their workers for purposes of performance evaluation.

Use the following equation for calculating the error rate as a percentage:

Error rate = (M/T) x 100 percent

M = number of mistakes in the form of misspellings or misheard words T = total number of words in the sample

Analyze a sample of the medical transcriptionist's work to determine the number of mistakes made and the total number of words. For instance, consider a document containing 500 words and 10 mistakes.

Input the numbers into the equation to calculate the transcriptionist's error rate:

Error Rate = (10/500) x 100 percent = 2 percent

This transcriptionist has a 2 percent error rate. An error rate of 2 percent or lower is an acceptable rate for non-critical information, according to the transcriptionists' professional association.

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