Scribes Offer Physicians Some Relief from EHR Frustrations

10 Indest-2008-7By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

In November 2013, a physician satisfaction study, sponsored by the American Medical Society (AMA), was published. In the study, physicians stated one of the most hated items in the medical industry is the electronic health record (EHR). According to physicians, EHRs are time-consuming, they hinder the physician-patient relationship by dividing the physician’s attention, they require health care professionals to perform tasks below their level of training, and EHRs can decrease efficiency in the practice.

Now there is a trend in the medical industry that allows physicians and health care practitioners to complete all their EHR documentation without ever having to touch a computer. According to an article in The New York Times, many medical practices and emergency rooms are hiring medical scribes to ease physicians’ note-taking responsibilities.

What is a Scribe?

A medical scribe is an unlicensed, trained medical information manager specializing in charting physician-patient encounters during the medical exams. A scribe enters information into the EHR at the direction of the physician or health care practitioner. Scribes can also support workflow and documentation for medical record coding.

Duties of a scribe vary by the practice. Some common duties include:

– Documenting procedures performed by the physician;
– Reviewing patient evaluation data for comparison and transcribing the results;
– Recording physician-dictated diagnoses, prescriptions and instructions for discharge; and
– Recording a provider’s consultations with other health care professionals.

Benefits of a Scribe.

According to an article in The New York Times, there are an estimated 10,000 scribes currently working in hospitals and medical practices around the country. In the same article physicians using scribes stated that they are more satisfied with their choice of career because the scribe allows the physician to concentrate on treating patients. Physicians also stated that by using scribes they can see up to four extra patients a day. Other benefits include, a reduced amount of clerical work for doctors, and better record keeping.

To read the entire article from The New York Times, click here.

Requirements of a Medical Scribe.

The growing medical scribe industry has yet to come together on a unified training and certification process. While the practitioner is ultimately responsible for the record, scribes should be trained to have a basic understanding of the EHR documentation guidelines, according to a Medical Economics article. Furthermore, there are specific signature requirements to be used when scribes are utilized, according to Medical Economics.

Some signature requirements for scribes include:

– Signing and dating all entries into the medical record. The role and signature of the scribe must be clearly distinguishable from that of the physician or licensed practitioner.
– The physician or licensed practitioner must authenticate the entry by signing, dating, and recording the time. A physician signature stamp is not permitted for use in the authentication of scribed entries.
– The authentication must take place before the physician and scribe leave the patient care area.
– If the organization determines that the scribe will be allowed to enter orders into the medical record, those orders entered into the medical record cannot be acted on until authenticated by the physician.
– The medical practice should implement a performance improvement process to ensure that the scribe is not acting outside of his or her job description, authentication is occurring as required, and that no orders are being acted on before they are authenticated.

When adding scribes to your practice, it is important to consult the guidelines laid out by state boards and other regulatory authorities in order to develop compliant scribe policies. Knowing your state’s requirements is key to reducing legal dangers and defending potential claims.

To learn more on medical scribes, click here to read the Medical Economics article.

Medical Assistants vs. Scribes.

In most states, medical assistants are allowed to perform more patient care activities than a scribe is. For example, see the list contained in Florida Law, Section 458.3485, Florida Statutes. On the other hand scribes are, in effect, merely medical transcriptionists. However, each job may prove to be a gateway to the other job. A well-trained medical assistant may make an excellent scribe and be of great assistance to the physician. An experienced medical scribe may make an excellent medical assistant, being familiar with medical terminology and patient care.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians and medical groups on EHR issues. It also represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at


What do you think about the use of scribes in the medical practice? Do you or have you ever used a scribe? What are the benefits or pitfalls of using a scribe? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.


Hafner, Katie. “A Busy Doctor’s Right Hand, Ever Ready to Type.” The New York Times. (January 12, 2014). From:

Lewis, Maxine. “Scribes Can Help Document Care, Boost Efficiency at Medical Practices.” Medical Economics. (October 20, 2013). From:

Conn, Joseph. “More Docs Get EHR Help.” Modern Healthcare. (August 24, 2013). From:

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
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