Has the exam room scene of a doctor intent on his patient been replaced by a doctor sitting awkwardly at a small desk tapping away at the keyboard?
EHRs (electronic health records) are used by 78 percent of private practices now and one of the chief complaints from physicians is that they take away from the time they spend with patients as they type in patient notes and electronically file prescriptions and lab test requests.
Enter the medical scribe, a trained health care professional who works the keyboard while the physician focuses on the patient. Proponents say that it improves healthcare and allows physicians to see more patients in one day. Opponents say it is expensive overhead that wasn’t needed before EHRs and can distract from the patient/doctor relationship.
What is a Medical Scribe?
According to ScribeAmerica.com a medical scribe is “essentially a personal assistant to the physician; performing documentation in the EHR, gathering information for the patient’s visit, and partnering with the physician” to deliver patient care.
There is an entire industry rising for medical scribes. One company does not require a college degree, offers a two-week “orientation” program, then a supervisory period where they work with another scribe and finally, periodic check-ins to ensure skills are up-to-date. A full-time scribe can earn up to $75,000 per year. This company also suggested it was a great job for part-time work for a college student, particularly one interested in other medical careers.
Many physicians use medical scribes informally, working with a trusted nurse, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant to help streamline their patient load.
Sermo Physician Poll
We asked our physicians about medical scribes and if they had used them. The results suggest that this is a niche within the medical industry with much growth potential.
The question: Have you ever used a medical scribe to manage your EHRs while you focus on patients?
- 34% No but I want to try it
- 29% No, I want full control of my patient records
- 23% No, I’m not familiar with medical scribes
- 7% Yes, love them
- 6% Yes, but I oversee heavily
Currently only 13 percent of doctors have used medical scribes but 34 percent are interesting in working with them.
Physicians had a lot to say about medical scribes
A dermatologist wrote, “I do not use medical scribes because I am concerned about the accuracy of the data.”
A general surgeon said, “Frankly, I think we have to step back a bit and ask a simple question…why in the world should anyone to be forced to use a system (current EMR) that slows down your work flow to such an extent that you have to hire another FTE [full time employee] to be a ‘scribe’?”
A family medicine M.D. was concerned about the patient relationship. “there is such an intimacy between physician and patient that introducing a third party destroys one ability to elicit honest responses during history taking or discussion of treatment options.”
Another family medicine doctor who embraced scribes wrote, “my MA [medical assistant] types it up in the EMR and I review and sign. I easily see three – four more patients per day this way and it costs me very little.”
As a physician what do you think of medical scribes? What do you think is the minimum training a scribe should have? We’ll be discussing this and more inside Sermo, if you’re an M.D. or D.O. please join the conversation.