Pros and Cons to Hiring an Online Medical Scribe
Online medical scribes have quickly developed into an attractive alternative for physicians who need help with their ever-increasing clerical load, but also need to consider costs and data security as well. Like so many industries, medical scribes have been offshored and have seen success during the Covid-19 pandemic and our increasingly online world. What are the pros and cons to hiring an online medical scribe?
Pros and Cons to Hiring an Online Medical Scribe
Online medical scribes have quickly developed into an attractive alternative for clinicians who need help with their ever-increasing clerical load, but also need to consider costs and data security as well. Like so many industries, medical scribes have been offshored and have seen success during the Covid-19 pandemic and our increasingly online world. What are the pros and cons to hiring an online medical scribe?
Ease clinician workload.
Just like in-person scribes, online scribes help ease the clinical workload by absorbing clerical duties that clinicians would otherwise be responsible for. Online scribes help clinicians by scribing notes, charting patient visits, recording exam results and more, allowing clinicians to focus more intently on the patient and their needs. Online medical scribes are oftentimes more flexible than in-person scribes, which allows clinicians to use them only when they need them.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, almost every industry has moved virtual. Fortunately for the online medical scribe industry, operational infrastructure and policy were already in place to ensure quality and security via online methods. Their value has proven itself during the pandemic, and has allowed patients and healthcare providers to adhere to social distancing guidelines and stay healthy.
Because online scribes are able to join patient sessions virtually, their physical absence in the exam room positively impacts patient comfortability. Some studies have shown that the presence of in-person scribes can add a layer of intrusiveness to the patient visit and make patients uneasy or hesitant to disclose personal information. With online scribes this perceived intrusiveness is significantly reduced.
Compared to in-person medical scribes, online medical scribes operate at much more affordable premiums. Many online scribes charge $1,200 per month ($15k per year) on average, while in-person scribes charge around $4,200 per month ($50k per year) on average.
Reduced Functional Creep.
Functional creep is the phenomenon in which trusted in-person medical scribes begin to take on additional roles and responsibilities that are outside the scope of their job description and training. While taking on more tasks may be helpful, clinicians run the risk of accidental malpractice if they give their in-person scribes too much access. Due to the nature of the online scribe industry, it is more difficult for online scribes to absorb additional roles and engage in unintended malpractice.
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Online scribes are a great alternative to in-person scribes, but when compared to other emerging scribe solutions and technology they have their own unique drawbacks.
While online scribes are financially advantageous for clinicians when compared to in-person scribes, they are not the cheapest or best option available. At $1,200 per month (at minimum) online scribes can be almost twice as expensive as emerging scribe technology, dictation software, or AI tech.
Many online scribe companies operate overseas, and the transmission of sensitive data across those online channels presents its own set of unique challenges and security risks. There is no foolproof method to vet any and all online scribe companies in regards to their data security or the measures they take to protect patient information.
Scribes are also not explicitly subjected to the regulations of HIPAA, meaning that providers must trust their scribe to protect patient information — which is inherently harder to ensure when operations are online-only.
Lack of Training.
Because so much of the online scribe industry has been offshored, there are very few regulations that monitor online scribes and their practices. Additionally, scribes (in general) are not required to complete any formal training in regards to data collection or note taking.
Lack of training in the medical community is always a slippery slope. One bad misunderstanding or false exam conclusion can lead to significant consequences for both the patient and the provider.
Band-Aiding the Larger Problem.
Even though online scribes do often provide a valuable service to clinicians, their existence is only really a band aid to the much larger problem of documentation. Even with online scribes, clinicians are still tasked with documenting the actual notes created by the scribe and populating them in the EHR.
If we truly want to help clinicians, we have to rethink the way we approach the note taking and documentation problem. Our solutions must address cost concerns, data security issues and address the problem from the moment the patient walks in the door, to the moment that last EHR field is populated, that insurance claim is made, or that prescription is filled.