Medical scribes: Why are they important and how much do they make?

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Have you ever noticed individuals close to physicians in hospitals especially in clinics typing or writing fast? Who are these professionals? What are they typing or writing? They are called medical scribes and they play an essential role to physicians and in a health facility.

Who is a medical scribe?

A medical scribe is a professional assistant to a doctor or any healthcare provider who helps in the documentation of essential clinical information of a patient. 

They document critical information such as clinical history, physical examination findings, laboratory test results, number of patient visits and other information as directed by the physician. The physician subsequently reviews the documentation for accuracy and approves them.

Medical scribe job description

Medical scribes handle all clinical documentation processes and this provides doctors with ample time for patient focussed care. In hospitals with electronic health records, they are responsible for entering all relevant patient data into the hospital database using computers. In a traditional hospital setting, they handle the paperwork such as filling forms and writing notes for the physician. They are an essential part of a health team and contribute to a doctor’s productivity and efficiency as discovered by a study done among primary physicians who work with medical scribes.

Benefits of a medical scribe

Scribes are beneficial to doctors and to a hospital in general because their work affects patient satisfaction and perception of a health facility.

Here are some of the benefits of hiring a medical scribe:

  • Reduces physician burnout: Doctors have many administrative duties apart from their clinical responsibilities. Some doctors spend time and hours typing and entering clinical data and  information into electronic health records. This increases the risk of burnout without any assistance from a scribe.
  • Improved doctor-patient relationship: Patients are sad when doctors don’t listen to them and are in a hurry to document. However, with the aid of a medical scribe, doctors have time to listen attentively to clients’ complaints and make eye contact. This improves client satisfaction and the quality of healthcare services delivered.
  • Increases revenue: Medical scribes enable doctors to see more patients within a short time. The more patients a doctor attends to, the more  revenue a hospital or clinic generates.

Training

Training doesn’t involve an education but certain skills are necessary for medical scribes to work productively. They may be trained in-house by the hiring physician on how to fill certain details and special forms such as medical bills form.

Here are major skills you need to function effectively as a medical scribe:

  • Computer skills: Most physicians have integrated electronic health record systems into their practice so medical documentation is done using a computer and certain software like Microsoft document or excel. Therefore,  basic computer knowledge is necessary.
  • Typing skills: You need to learn how to type fast because when taking notes for physicians, you’ll be expected to type as the doctor speaks.
  • Listening skills: Your ability to pay attention and listen clearly is necessary to reduce the degree of transcription errors.

Qualifications

To qualify for a medical scribe position, a high school diploma is often the minimum criteria. Though people with medical  knowledge such as pre med students have a higher chance of being employed. In addition, the possession of the skills highlighted above gives you a leverage over other applicants.

Career opportunities

Medical scribes work part time or full time depending on the individual’s choice. Medical students and other health care enthusiasts take up part-time positions to understand the hospital environment as they prepare for careers in the medical field.

Full-time scribes have work shifts and as they gain experience in the hospital environment, they may qualify for managerial positions and department heads.

What much do medical scribes make? 

The salary depends on an employer’s compensation plan or if the work is part-time or full time. The average medical scribe earns between $15-17 per hour or $31,000 per annum, according to Glassdoor. Although factors such as the level of experience and type of employer will influence the medical scribe’s salary.

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