Introduction to the Role of Medical Scribe
In today’s regulatory environment, physicians are bogged down by administrative tasks, which detract from their primary responsibility of patient care. To reduce the amount of time spent on charting and other documentation, doctors are turning to medical scribes. A medical scribe acts as a specially trained assistant, facilitating the practice’s workflow and enabling the physician to focus on delivering quality care.
EHR Driving Scribe Demand
The rise of the electronic health record (EHR) has created more clerical duties for physicians. A primary role of scribes is navigating the EHR system, retrieving diagnostic results, coding, and more. Typically, a scribe is present during a patient encounter and compiles related documentation such as nursing notes, lab results, and prior records. By some estimates, scribes handle as much as 90% of a physician’s ancillary duties.
The American College of Medical Scribe Specialists, a body that offers certification and training for medical scribes, reports that 20,000 scribes were employed in 2014. By 2020, the organization expects that number to grow to more than 100,000.
Currently, there are scribes employed across 44 states. This number is also expected to rise in the coming years as physicians and clinics realize the value in the services provided by medical scribes.
Scribes Streamline Patient Flows
Medical scribes are becoming an integral part of the medical practice as physicians and medical groups begin to realize their value. A recent study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information reported a 10% increase in physician productivity in a cardiology clinic that employed scribes. Physicians with scribes saw 9.6% more patients per hour that those without.
A separate study found that utilizing the services of a scribe can save thousands of dollars per patient. A standard visit (without a scribe) was 40 minutes for new patients and 20 minutes for follow-ups. With a scribe system, new patients were 30 minutes, while follow-ups were only 15. This equaled direct and indirect savings of $2,500 per patient with a scribe system.
Medical Scribe Education and Training
Medical scribes must hold a high school diploma. Approximately 40 hours of training are required. Certification is not required but is offered through the American College of Medical Scribe Specialists.
Scribing offers one-on-one opportunities to interact with physicians and learn more about medicine as a profession. U.S. News & World Report identified scribing as a popular occupation among pre-medical students and professionals. Training and experience as a medical scribe is recommended by several medical school selection committees across the nation.
A World of Clinical Practices to Choose From
Medical scribes are free to pursue a rewarding career in a medical field that holds the most interest. Scribes can choose to work in a fast-paced emergency department, for example, where they learn about a wide range of pathology in a single setting. Others may elect to work in private practice, family medicine clinics, pediatrics, or obstetrics. The role of medical scribes will continue to evolve and provide valuable services to physicians, becoming an integral part of the quality and timely delivery of healthcare.