Hate Dealing With an EHR? Use a Scribe and Profits Increase

Neil Chesanow

Disclosures

February 27, 2014

In This Article

The Future of Medicine?

Are medical scribes the next big thing in healthcare? Perhaps. The groundswell of support is growing, vendors maintain.

Three years ago, ScribeAmerica had 1000 onsite scribes in clinics and EDs across the country. Today, it has 3600 scribes in outpatient practices and EDs.

"In the outpatient realm, we anticipate these numbers will double in the next year," Murphy says. "We'll probably have 7000 scribes, or so we're hoping, by the end of 2014."

Physicians Angels' business is also booming. The firm is hiring about 25 people a month in India to be virtual scribes and says it still can't meet the US demand.

"We're well over 100 scribes right now because we're adding them on an almost daily basis," Shariff says. "By the end of this year, we'll have about 350."

Before the scribes finish their training, they are spoken for, he says. There is a mounting backlog of requests.

Shariff offers this perspective on scribe industry growth:

"The majority of our doctors are specialists, which is reflective of the overall economy in healthcare," he says. "Forty percent or more of all doctors are specialists. We're just starting to see primary care doctors come to see us.

"Primary care physicians have been slow to move in this direction. Why? They're not as cash-rich. Surgical specialists pulling in $400,000-$500,000 a year see a faster drop in their bookings and ancillary services when they move to an EHR, and they have the liquidity to experiment with something different.

"Primary care doctors tend to move a little slower because they don't think about numbers in the same way. They think of scribes as an expense. They don't look at scribes as profit and income."

Large health systems often display a similar outlook, Shariff has found.

"As more and more big health systems are gobbling up physician practices, they have dissuaded their doctors from using scribes," he says. "They keep coming back to the fact that scribes are more people whom they have to hire. That's where they're stuck. A lot of them have hiring freezes."

Meanwhile, he says, "the small groups around these big health systems are back to full productivity because we're supporting them with scribes, and we know that their volumes have picked up significantly as a result."

However, Shariff believes that the case for scribes will be made from within.

"Doctors in the large health systems are being asked to take pay cuts and give up certain benefits and privileges because of the cash crunch," he points out. "They are the ones who are starting to push for scribes on our behalf."

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