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What is a medical scribe? How many are there?

Medical scribes are unlicensed employees of physician practices or hospitals who have been hired to key-in information into patients’ electronic health records.  This is a new and growing job category – there are at least 22 companies who provide scribe service.  In this short opinion piece, the authors argue that the use of medical scribes is a workaround for physicians frustrated with the limitations of today’s EHR systems.  But, because the workaround works, there is less market pressure on EHR vendors to improve their products.  The author also argues that the possibility of “use creep” is high, that is, that medical scribes may be asked to do order entry, which is a patient safety concern.

How many medical scribes are there?

  • “The chief executive officer of ScribeAmerica, the largest US scribe company, estimates that 10,000 scribes are working in hospitals and medical practices across the country.”

Source: Gellert, G.A., Ramirea, R., and Webster, S.L. (2014, Dec. 15). The rise of the medical scribe industry: implications for the advancement of electronic health records. JAMA.  Click here for access to the publisher’s website: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/journal.aspx  Posted by AHA Resource Center (312) 422-2050, rc@aha.org

What is a medical scribe?

Use of medical scribes to accompany physicians and enter data into the patient record is expanding beyond the emergency department to other areas of the hospital.  The scribes, who are present during exams, enter data into the electronic medical record while the physicians talk with, and examine, patients.  This has proved helpful in allowing physicians to improve productivity rates that had decreased when they were required to do all of their own data entry.


Meyer, H.  More docs get EHR help: medical scribes move beyond the emergency room.  Modern Healthcare;43(34):40-41, 43, Aug. 26, 2013.  Click here for publisher’s website: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20130824/MAGAZINE/308249958 

Meyer, H.  The Doctor (and his scribe) will see you now.  H&HN. Hospitals & Health Networks, Dec. 2010.  Click here for text: http://www.hhnmag.com/hhnmag/jsp/articledisplay.jsp?dcrpath=HHNMAG/Article/data/12DEC2010/1210HHN_FEA_staffingissues&domain=HHNMAG 

Posted by AHA Resource Center (312) 422-2003, rc@aha.org