New Technology in Medical Record Keeping Creates New Jobs, and Perhaps New Challenges

In an interesting article by Stacey Burling, an Inquirer Staff writer, dated April 21, 2011, the author points out some new challenges and potential new jobs, created by the advent of electronic medical records. In the Emergency Room setting, the article states, ER physicians utilizing these new record keeping systems are slowed down so much by the process of actually putting the patient’s information into the computer system, that “scribes,” have been hired by doctors to input the information for them.

Many times the “medical scribes” are younger people paid anywhere from $8-$12 an hour to follow physicians around, take down the information, and input it into the computer. The article touts this job, understandably so, as “hard to beat” for students that have an interest in the medical professions. As part of the article, Ms. Burling interviewed a medical scribe who described her job as getting “exposed to things that you otherwise would never be exposed to.” To the physician, the article continues, “having scribes allows the highest paid people in the room spend more time with the patients” and allows the doctors more flexibility in the manner in which they treat patients.

Ms. Burling’s article notes the explosive growth in this industry. The largest scribe company called “ScribeAmerica” has 800 employees in 21 states, a dramatic increase since 2009. Also, Emergency Medicine Scribe Systems has 600 scribes – 500 more than it had two years ago. Undoubtedly, the numbers of employees in this industry is trending upward and presumably, the scribes offer an important service.

What are the possible pitfalls to such a situation, from both a quality of care perspective and a potential liability scenario? Will medical scribes help or hinder the continued evolution of the electronic medical records platform?

Author: Stuart T. O’Neal

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