About The SUM Program

The acronym “SUM” stands for Systems Unit Method because SUM Program units are grouped by body system or medical specialty. The SUM Program for Medical Transcription Training, developed by Health Professions Institute (HPI), is the leading medical transcription training program used in schools, hospitals, and transcription companies throughout the English-speaking world. The SUM Program is also available to individuals who are considering self-directed study.

Students who are serious about pursuing a career in medical transcription and are willing to work hard will find The SUM Program for Medical Transcription Training challenging but effective. The SUM Program is used in accredited community colleges, vocational schools, and on-the-job training programs in hospitals, clinics, and transcription services; it has prepared tens of thousands of medical transcriptionists for the workplace.  Other students are learning medical transcription from home through one of the highly-regarded distance education schools that use The SUM Program.

Students who are self-motivated and mature sometimes choose to complete The SUM Program for Medical Transcription Training on their own by Independent Home Study

Why The SUM Program Is THE BEST Way to Learn Medical Transcription

The SUM Program for Medical Transcription Training uses authentic dictation, not simulated or “fake” script-read reports. Authentic dictation features natural background noises such as telephones ringing, papers rattling, nurses talking—even a dictator yawning or eating. It is spontaneous, peppered with “ums” and “uhs,” false starts, corrections, interruptions, and the run-on sentences characteristic of natural human speech. Script-read dictation, even if the readers are physicians, does not prepare students for the authentic dictation they will encounter on the job and undermines the training effort. Students who transcribe the authentic dictation in The SUM Program for Medical Transcription Training develop the finely tuned auditory discrimination skills necessary for success.

The SUM Program for Medical Transcription Training includes a wide variety of voices and dictation styles—male and female, rapid and slow, organized and scattered, regionally and internationally accented, mumbled and clear, formal and informal. The more voices to which a student is exposed, the more prepared the student is for the workplace.

The SUM Program for Medical Transcription Training prescribes a well-rounded course of academic study with readings and exercises assigned in respected college-level textbooks, including anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, human diseases, medical science, pharmacology, laboratory medicine, diagnostic and surgical procedures, and professional issues.

The SUM Program for Medical Transcription Training is organized by body system and medical specialty, coordinating transcription practice with academic course work so that students can immediately apply what they have learned and more easily retain information. Concepts are sequenced from simple to complex, allowing students to build their fund of knowledge gradually throughout the program.

The SUM Program for Medical Transcription Training is self-paced so each student can move at a comfortable rate. Students check their own work against transcript answer keys to provide immediate feedback and  assure that mistakes are corrected before they become bad habits. (Teachers have the option of turning off the answer keys.)

The SUM Program for Medical Transcription Training emphasizes extensive transcription practice with up to 47 hours of dictation—at beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels—to provide nearly 800 hours of actual transcription practice. The development of marketable skills and a successful transition to the workplace are dependent upon EXTENSIVE transcription practice.  Programs that are short in duration and narrow in scope will not prepare students for a successful career in medical transcription!


Evaluating Medical Transcription Programs

When evaluating medical transcription programs, ask the following questions:

1. Does the program contain authentic physician dictation?
This is essential for proper training. Job-ready skills are not developed by transcribing medical reports narrated by professional readers, even if they are doctors. The SUM Program uses authentic dictation. Be aware that many medical transcription training programs on the market today use fake dictation.

2. Is the dictation sequenced in a way that promotes optimum learning?
Transcribing reports arranged haphazardly does not help students build on concepts already learned. SUM Program dictations have been strategically sequenced to provide a comprehensive learning experience.

3. Has the dictation been evaluated for its content and ability to provide depth and breadth of training?
The most effective training program is one in which authentic dictation is analyzed for vocabulary density, attention to fundamental medical principles, and representation of the widest variety of dictation styles. A random batch of dictation from a limited source, promoting newness as its primary feature, prepares students for a very limited work environment. SUM Program Medical Transcription Training dictations were chosen from a bank of thousands of reports with vocabulary density as a primary selection criteria.


4. How many HOURS of physician dictation does the program include?
Don’t be misled by the number of tapes or disks. These vary in length, some tapes containing as little as 10 minutes per side and may even contain the same dictation on both sides! More hours of dictation means more opportunity for transcription practice—and transcription practice correlates directly with success. The SUM Program Medical Transcription Training offers a vast amount of transcription practice:

    • Beginning Medical Transcription, 2nd ed. 8 hours
    • Beginning Medical Transcription, Classic 9 hours*
    • Surgery Transcription Unit (Intermediate) 8 hours
    • Advanced Medical Transcription, 2nd ed. 21 hours

Total 46 hours*

* The Classic edition of Beginning Medical Transcription (which is included on the CD version of Beginning Medical Transcription, 2nd ed.) also contains 3 hours of introductory material on professionalism, laboratory procedures, and pharmacology in addition to the 9 hours of physician dictation.


5. Is academic course work required?
To become a competent medical transcriptionist, a student must gain fundamental medical knowledge in addition to intense transcription practice. Textbooks should be college-level and authored by experts in their field. The SUM Program includes a substantial amount of textbook reading and workbook assignments to promote understanding of medicine.


6. Does the program contain transcript answer keys that permit you to correct your own work?
Transcript keys allow immediate feedback, enabling you to correct your mistakes immediately rather than repeat and perpetuate them. Each SUM Program unit includes transcript answer keys in print (or a CD with PDF documents for you to print). The SUM Program CD versions also contain on-screen transcripts that enable you to regularly evaluate and correct your work.


7. Is the training coordinated by body system or medical specialty?
All courses should coordinate with each other so that the same body systems are studied at the same time. For example, while you are learning heart anatomy, you should also be learning cardiac terminology, cardiovascular drugs, lab tests for heart function, and transcribing cardiology dictation. This is the most effective way to understand and retain information. In contrast, if you were to study anatomy and terminology out of context, you’d spend months memorizing terms and possibly forget them before you ever had the opportunity to transcribe. The SUM Program transcription practice and textbook assignments are coordinated by body system or medical specialty.


8. Were the training materials developed by a qualified staff of experienced certified medical transcriptionists?
Most medical transcription training materials are designed by individuals in a single geographic location who lack experience and education credentials. The SUM Program developers are professionals from many parts of the country, with decades of experience in both transcription and education, who came together to develop a program that meets national standards and guidelines and prepares students for employment.


The SUM Program developers 

Linda C. Campbell, CMT, is HPI’s former director of product development. She is coauthor of The SUM Program, The Teacher’s Manual, Student Syllabus, The Medical Transcription Workbook, and all HPI products between 1987 and 2006. She has over 30 years’ experience in medical transcription as a practitioner, educator, author, and editor.

John H. Dirckx, M.D., is retired director of the student health center at the University of Dayton. He serves as medical editorial consultant for all HPI products and is the author of three HPI workbooks that are part of The SUM Program curriculum: H&P: A Nonphysician’s Guide to the Medical History and Physical Examination, 3rd ed.; Human Diseases, 2nd ed.; and Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures in Medicine.

Ellen Drake,CMT, former MT teacher, service owner, and medical transcriptionist, is development editor for HPI. Over her distinguished career she has contributed to many medical transcription education and reference books, including Saunders Pharmaceutical Word Book.

Sally C. Pitman
, MA, is President of Health Professions Institute and is editor and publisher of all HPI products. Her visionary leadership in the medical transcription industry has been a positive force for change in the past 30 years.

Susan M. Turley
, CMT, RHIT, has been a contributing author and editor for many years. She is coauthor HPI’s SUM Program and is the author of Medical Language: Immerse Yourself (Prentice Hall, 2007) and Understanding Pharmacology for Health Professionals, 4th ed. (Prentice Hall, 2006). She has led numerous seminars for teachers and is a noted MT education consultant.