Medical Scribes - Career Overview

Medical Scribes Aim to Improve Physicians' Communication

doctor and nurse talking and looking at digital tablet in hospital hallway
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Medical scribes are an emerging profession brought about by the increased workload of physicians and need for additional administrative assistance and documentation for EMR regulations, health reform legislation (ACA), and more.

A medical scribe is a person who takes over the data entry and recording for the doctor to free up time for patient care. The physician can then focus more time on the needs of the patient.

Some healthcare industry experts and executives believe that scribes will be an essential part of every healthcare team in the future.

Michael Murphy, MD, CEO of ScribeAmerica states "Medical scribes are going to be the standard in healthcare and will be part of the team: a physician, nurse, tech, and a medical scribe....as EMR, federal, and insurance regulations continue to impact physician productivity, the need for assisted documentation will grow."

Dr. Murphy provided us with some detailed information about this exciting and rapidly-growing profession. His firm employs thousands of medical scribes across 40 states and is nationally recognized for its education, training, and management of medical scribes.

Who are medical scribes?

Dr. Murphy: "A scribe is a physician collaborator who fulfills the primary secretarial and non-clinical functions of the busy physician or mid-level provider. Scribes specialize in medical data entry into a paper or electronic medical record system and in instituting efficient workflow process, thus increasing the medical provider’s capacity to provide direct patient care like seeing the next waiting patient, performing medical procedures and communicating with nursing staff.

The Scribe actively monitors the duration of medical testing results such as blood and urine tests, x-ray, and CT reports in order to prevent unnecessary delays and expedite patient dispositioning."

What do medical scribes do?

Dr. Murphy: "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 the pinnacle of efficient patient care."

What is a typical work week like for a medical scribe? (Hours, schedule, setting, etc.)

Dr. Murphy: "Sixty percent [work] part-time, which is approximately two days per week. Forty percent are full-time. Medical scribes can work in the Emergency Department (ED), outpatient setting, or an inpatient setting, rounding on patients." 

How does one become qualified to work as a medical scribe?

The following are the requirements and prerequisites, according to Dr. Murphy:

  • Must have a minimum of a high school diploma. A college degree, or current enrollment in a degree program is preferred.
  • Computer and typing skills are preferred
  • Experience with medical terminology is preferred.
  • A constitution to work under the rigors of delivering medical care.
  • Responsible and mature, with a passion for medicine.
  • A time commitment of one year for full-time workers, or two years for part-time workers is required.
  • www.theacmss.org is the certifying body and is needed if any CPOE is to be done.

The medical scribe training program consists of 3 steps:

  • Step 1: Two-week orientation course designed to get the medical scribe "up to speed" for his first day of collaboration with the physician.
  • Step 2: Supervisory period during which a highly experienced medical scribe offers immediate review and feedback of the new medical scribe's work.
  • Step 3: Periodic re-assessment that allows for indefinite and frequent review of the scribe's role and effectiveness in an effort to enable the medical scribe to always keep up-to-date with a dynamic workplace environment.

Why should someone consider a career as a medical scribe?

Dr. Murphy: "A background in Medical Scribing is quickly becoming the standard for pre-medical experience, and is suggested by medical school acceptance committees across the country.  The competition to become a Medical Scribe is intense, and the demand for Medical Scribe services across the country has never been higher.

Additionally, experience as a medical scribe counts towards Physician Assistant (PA) clinical hours.

What are the challenges of working as a medical scribe?

Dr. Murphy: "It is not for everyone. This job takes dedication and your ability to learn a abundant amount of information in a short period of time.   You must also be able to;

·  Ability to stand, walk, and follow a physician for extended periods of time

·  Ability to lift, hold, push, and pull 25 pounds

·  Ability to work in a stressful and fast-paced environment

·  Ability to read, write, comprehend through listening, and speak fluent English

·  Ability to operate a computer and/or laptop through proficient typing, clicking, and viewing a monitor for extended periods

·  Ability to hand-write legibly

What is the job outlook for medical scribes?

Dr. Murphy: "As EHRs are mandated by 2015 along with ICD-10/ICD-11, the two midnight rule, increases in patient volumes, physician shortages and decreased reimbursements.  Medical Scribes should be in high demand as physicians are looking to streamline processes, become more efficient and less data entry specialists."

Who makes an ideal candidate for a medical scribe?

Dr. Murphy: "Pre-med, pre-nursing or pre-PA/NP are great candidates. Others looking for a career may also look into this as most companies allow for vertical growth. Medical transcriptionists are historically not good candidates since most get paid more than scribes, they do not work from home and it is an entire different job.  Medical transcriptionists listen and type word for word what the provider said.  A scribe has to listen to the encounter and pull out relevant information.  Also, the medical scribe role is very fast paced. 

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