The Advantages and Disadvantages of Medical Scribes

Sarah Lara

Apr 24, 2024

Medical scribes are professionals within the healthcare industry who act as assistants to doctors and primary care physicians. Usually, scribes are people who already have a background in the medical field. They can be certified medical assistants, pre-medical students, or medical students working to gain extra money and experience. Their main purpose? To take care of clerical tasks like documentation so doctors or PTs can focus more on the patient.

According to the study “Association of Medical Scribes in Primary Care with Physician Workflow and Patient Experience”, 57% of patients reported that their primary physician was able to spend more time with them and less time on their computer thanks to the assistance of a medical scribe. This means that medical scribes can be an asset for some practices. However, before hiring an online or in-person scribe, it’s best to first learn the common medical scribe pros and cons.

Advantages of Medical Scribes

Medical Scribes Improve the Quality of Patient Encounters

Healthcare professionals such as PTs often spend a lot of time documenting patient encounters. As a result, they aren’t able to focus on their patients as much as they should. This is where scribes can come in and be an asset to every physical therapist.

As the scribe is there to take down and organize any important notes from the patient session, the primary healthcare provider can focus more on the patient instead. As a result, the patient care provided can be more continuous, allowing them to be on the road to recovery faster.

Clinical Scribes Can Increase Revenue

When discussing medical scribe pros and cons, one pro that makes them desirable is that they can help increase the clinic’s revenue. Remember: proper documentation is required to ensure a patient is properly billed at the end of their treatments. Improper documentation, on the other hand, could result in inappropriate billing, which could then lead to legal troubles down the line.

Clinical scribes help ensure that the correct information is taken down in the patient documentation. With this, patients are appropriately billed, allowing the clinic to increase its overall revenue. Additionally, since scribes can input the correct information in the clinical documentation, the clinic can also easily avoid legal troubles that could result in them losing money due to payouts from malpractice lawsuits.

They Can Increase Team Productivity

Another advantage boasted by clinical scribes is that they can help increase a physical therapy team’s productivity. By enlisting the assistance of scribes, healthcare providers no longer need to worry about administrative tasks such as documentation, patient charting, note-taking, and even billing. 

By forgoing the aforementioned tasks, physical therapists can focus more on providing quality care to their patients. The clinic can experience shorter wait times and faster diagnoses, resulting in increased team productivity as they can assist even more patients on a daily basis.

Medical Scribes Ease the PT’s Workload

Clinical scribes also greatly help ease a physical therapist’s workload. Without the aid of a scribe, clerical duties such as documentation, patient charting, and note-taking often falls on the PT’s shoulder. In fact, as of 2021, an article revealed that healthcare professionals are said to spend an average of 15.6 hours on documentation duties alone. This means that they aren’t able to focus on their patients as much as they should, leading to burnout.

With the aid of medical scribes, however, this can be a problem of the past. Whether they manually document the patient session or use PT documentation software, they can still significantly ease a physical therapist’s workload. As a result, healthcare providers can focus more on their patients, providing quality care that allows them to recover much faster.

In addition, when opting for online scribes instead of in-person scribes, PTs are also afforded a degree of flexibility as PTs can enlist their services only when they really need them.

Clinical Scribes Reduce Functional Creep

“Functional creep” is a phenomenon in which healthcare professionals take on tasks beyond their usual duties. Often, this could pose a problem because if a doctor or physical therapist isn’t experienced in the task, they might make mistakes that could lead to legal troubles such as malpractice lawsuits. 

Medical scribes can reduce functional creep by a significant amount. The reason for this is because scribes are meant to handle clerical tasks with efficiency and accuracy. As a result, they can avoid mistakes that lead to legal troubles even better. Additionally, online scribes are also distant from the actual doctor, preventing them from gaining too much access to patient information. 

Finally, some virtual scribe agencies also restrict the scribe’s access to patient information on purpose unless access is necessary. Because of these factors, functional creep on the healthcare provider’s part can be prevented and even the scribe is protected from unintentionally committing malpractice.

Disadvantages of Online Medical Scribes

They Take Time and Resources to Train

When it comes to medical scribe pros and cons, it can be expected that they present their own set of disadvantages as well. One disadvantage clinical scribes pose is that they take time and resources to train. In fact, scribes generally aren’t required to complete any formal training unless they’re working for private organizations or agencies.

Because of this lack of standardized training, it falls on the clinic to provide training to these medical scribes, which can take up a significant amount of time and money. In addition, this would also require the clinic to make certain adjustments to the workflow. As such, ample financial and workflow preparations will be required before training a scribe.

Clinical Scribes Present Security Concerns

Another disadvantage that hiring medical scribes can present is data security concerns. Whether physical therapy clinics opt for in-person or online scribes, they’ll still gain access to sensitive patient information that must be transmitted across certain channels for data storage. 

Scribes, however, aren’t explicitly subject to HIPAA regulations. This means that clinics will simply have to trust the scribe to protect the patient’s information. Additionally, if the scribe makes a mistake due to the lack of knowledge of HIPAA regulations, it could result in the unintentional leak of the patient’s information.

Medical Scribes are Vulnerable to Errors

Medical scribes are human healthcare personnel. As such, they’re vulnerable to committing various errors in documentation unless they’re extremely thorough in their duties. Remember: documentation errors can lead to consequences such as poor patient care and malpractice lawsuits. Therefore, in terms of medical scribe pros and cons, this is one drawback that clinics will want to avoid as much as possible.

Human scribes are a great asset to every physical therapy practice. However, with disadvantages pertaining to costs, security concerns, and documentation errors, they may not be the best fit for your clinical team. As such, don’t hesitate to take advantage of PT documentation software like ScribePT instead.

ScribePT is an AI documentation tool that aims to assist physical therapists in cutting back documentation time by up to 95%. With features such as one-click EMR transfer, personalized draft notes, passive recording, and even accurate transcripts, PTs can reclaim more than 20 hours per month from documentation duties. Book a demo today and see how ScribePT can help make clinical documentation easier.

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