Providers turn to scribes for EHR data input

As the use of electronic health records (EHRs) expands, many physicians and hospitals are beginning to look for assistance to input data into those records in a timely and efficient fashion. To meet those needs, the demand has been increasing for medical scribes, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Physicians who work in community hospitals seem to be more likely to want scribes than those in academic medical centers--where medical students and residents are readily available, the Inquirer says.

Medical scribes also have been particularly in demand in hospital emergency rooms. Scribes started working in emergency departments in the mid-1990s, the Inquirer notes. However, increasing pressures on emergency physicians' time have made medical scribes more popular: While scribes provide data entry, physicians can focus more on patients.

Companies that hire scribes have seen a jump in their businesses. For instance, ScribeAmerica, the largest American scribe employer, has about 800 employees in 21 states, which is up from between 350 and 400 employees in 10 states in 2009.

Another company, Emergency Medicine Scribe Systems, employs 600 scribes--up from 100 in 2009. The company said it is looking at using "virtual scribes" who would assist physicians by using high-resolution cameras and microphones to document patient visits.

Many of the scribes hired often are college students or young adults with an interest in pursuing a career in medicine. They usually receive $8 to $12 per hour.

Whether the demand for medical scribes will continue to increase is open for debate, according to the Inquirer. Some tell the newspaper that as physicians get more comfortable with EHRs, the demand will lessen. But, others say that scribes speed up the documentation process and make physicians' lives less stressful.

For more information:
- see the Philadelphia Inquirer article