Is a Medical Scribe the Same as a Medical Transcriptionist?

The short answer is no. Medical scribes and medical transcriptionists are not the same thing. However, they both make a physician’s job a bit easier. Scribes and transcriptionists document patients’ medical records, but they both carry out different essential tasks. A medical scribe is a physician’s partner and provides documentation in the practice’s electronic health record. Due to the clinical exposure that scribes acquire, they become well-informed and knowledgeable about medical terminology, physiology, and anatomy.

Medical scribes are present in the healthcare providers exam rooms, documenting information while the visits happen. Conversely, medical transcriptionists are not in the physician’s office at any time, nor do they add patient’s information to the electronic health record in real-time.

Medical transcriptionists provide transcriptions of a physician’s voice dictations and turn those into written healthcare records. The suitability of a medical transcriptionist versus a medical scribe is dependent on the needs of the doctor’s practice.

What is a Medical Scribe?

A dictionary will tell you that a scribe is a writer, a clerk, a copier of manuscripts, a public secretary. It could be said that the job of a medical scribe is a combination of those elements.

So, what does a medical scribe do? The job of a medical scribe is to extract relevant medical info from patient encounters. The essential role of a medical scribe is to generate and maintain patients’ medical records that are created under a physician’s supervision. Throughout patient visits, the scribe shadows the physician in order to document relevant information, such as procedures that are performed or laboratory results. In essence, a scribe captures and updates each patient’s roadmap while they are under their doctor’s care. On top of this, medical scribes can be viewed as an extension of the provider’s arm; navigating the EMR, following up on communication for the provider, ensuring Quality Metrics are being tracked correctly, as well as pending orders and researching information.

Medical scribes are growing in popularity, partly because patient electronic health record systems have become the new industry standard, which continually change with regulation and health reform. A healthcare provider is able to wholly focus on the patient when they have a medical scribe in their corner, making sure that the events of the visit are accurately captured and recorded and that the patient has a better experience.

What is a Medical Transcriptionist?

Medical transcriptionists use their skills to document a physician’s voice dictation. It’s their job to listen to these files and accurately convert that into a written document. Transcriptionists work in a different space within the facility, in an offsite office, or even from home.

With the emergence and democratization of voice recognition technology, physicians are starting to rely more on software to do the preparation. Voice recognition technology is beginning to be able to automatically convert spoken words into text though it has a long road ahead due to accuracy. The software does not interpret the physician correctly most times. In such a scenario, the job of a medical transcriptionist is to edit and review these AI documents to correct any misinterpretations.

What do they have in common?

Both medical scribes and medical transcriptionists provide medical documentation for a healthcare provider. Medical transcriptionists listen to a physician’s recorded voice dictations, typically just sending the typed words back to the provider for the provider to enter accurately, whereas a medical scribe is right beside the provider during patient visits, documenting in real-time and recording the information and instructions in all facets of the EMR, far beyond the typical SOAP note. Medical scribes should be viewed as an extension of the provider’s arm providing real-time documentation.

What is the difference between a scribe and transcriptionist?

Medical scribes focus on the key elements of patient appointments, medical transcriptionists only record what voice dictations have been assigned to them by the physician. Another key difference is that transcriptionists document dictations, creating a final product that’s verbatim to the audio. In contrast, medical scribes are busy extracting the necessary medical information from patient encounters as they are happening. Additionally, medical scribes assist in all facets of EMR documentation; the SOAP note, Quality Metrics, Communication management (staff messages, referral, thank you’s, etc.,), Discrete Data Entry, Navigating the EMR, Pending Orders, Precharting, etc.

Why should you use a virtual medical scribe?

Technology has made integrating a medical scribe into a physician’s practice easier. Virtual medical scribes provide real-time administrative aid by virtually connecting during appointments to record all info throughout the patient visit. This can be to the patient’s benefit, as the experience is less obstructive than someone’s physical presence. Moreover, it gives the physician more space enhancing social distancing and cuts out the time needed to communicate with an employee.

Virtual scribes are typically a budget-friendly option, meaning that healthcare practices in rural areas who cannot take on a full-time scribe can still benefit from their services. Virtual scribes also do not need to be provided with a workspace, meaning that no office space will be taken up or new arrangements need to be made. In addition, there aren’t enough quality physical scribes to meet the demands even in urban areas, therefore virtual scribes solve this issue immediately as virtual service can cover urban and rural areas with ease.

Moreover, virtual medical scribes are often hired as independent contractors. With this worker classification, less paperwork is required, and the bureaucracy of vacation, sick days, and lateness is essentially eliminated. The best virtual scribe services out there also eliminate retraining between scribes due to attrition by having internal training teams on staff.

Final answer

The bottom line is that medical scribes and medical transcriptionists are not the same thing. While both provide medical documentation to a certain extent, their essential job duties are very different and require different training. Both scribes and transcriptionists can be very useful and allow doctors to spend more time with patients, improve their experience and increase their productivity.