Data has become central to every medical operation in the United States. But while it’s easy for political and industry leaders to talk about the innovation of data-driven healthcare, the task of juggling data entry into an electronic health records (EHR) system while taking care of patients is not simple.
That’s where medical scribes come in.
Those who work in this emerging field take unstructured information – typically, written or recorded notes from a physician – and enter it correctly into an EHR system. Managing medical scribes and data departments is also an option for those interested in pursuing a degree in healthcare administration with a focus on health informatics.
What Medical Scribes Do
Medical scribes work closely with physicians as they provide patient care. They take notes from the doctor, as well as document patient interactions with medical professionals. They then enter that information into an EHR system, along with anything else that can provide a complete picture of a patient’s health condition for a physician’s records.
Medical scribes must know the correct coding for each medical condition and procedure to properly enter information. An eye for detail is important in this job, as medical scribes must review records to ensure accuracy and clear up any inconsistencies. They also respond to requests for information and will aid medical professionals in navigating records databases.
Read More: Health Informatics Career Opportunities
Medical scribes have grown in number in recent years because of the increased amount and complexity of healthcare records in medical operations. Doctors and other providers found that more and more of their time was being consumed entering records into the database, according to the American Health Information Management Association.
While some organizations may ask a member of the medical staff to work in a dual role as both provider and scribe, an increasing number of healthcare facilities are hiring medical scribes to focus specifically on keeping accurate records. A study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that productivity among doctors at a cardiology clinic increased 10% when medical scribes were added to the staff.
Medical Scribe Salary and Job Outlook
Medical scribes work in a variety of settings. Pay and job growth can be dependent on the geographic location as well as the services the medical operation provides. These include hospitals, doctor’s offices, community clinics and diagnostic laboratories.
Scribes also work for third-party consultants who provide scribes to various medical operations.
Some enter the profession – often for minimum wage or $12 per hour – as a stepping stone into the medical profession, according to STAT News. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have information about medical scribes, it reported an average annual salary of $37,150 in May 2016 for medical transcriptionists.
How to Become a Medical Scribe
There is no one set pathway to becoming a medical scribe. It’s a potential career for those who earn a degree in a healthcare field, as well as a stepping stone for those who wish to get into healthcare records and information systems work.
Some medical scribes also attain the designation of Certified Medical Scribe Specialist (CMSS), a credential overseen by the American College of Medical Scribe Specialists.
Jobs in the field are expected to explode in the coming years. ScribeAmerica, a third-party firm that provides scribes to medical operations, estimates that the number of scribes will grow from 15,000 to 100,000 by 2020, according to Kaiser Health News.