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Did COVID-19 Kill the In-Person Scribe?

What did COVID-19 do to the In-Person Scribe?

For the typical physician's office, the COVID-19 pandemic upended many aspects of the traditional service structure. Yet, as the world recovers, providers have been forced to adapt to new–seemingly permanent–realities, like rigid safety protocols, declining staff counts and increasing demand for telemedicine. The resulting impact on some aspects of the doctor-patient service environment has been significant.

Scribing is a prime example. Given today's post-pandemic reality, is it fair to wonder if we've seen the beginning of the end of the live, in-person scribe?

Scribing During the Pandemic

Scribes have been used for decades to aid in the documentation process and have become an integral component of U.S. healthcare delivery. A recent study found their impact was critical to managing through the pandemic, as scribe use both before and during the pandemic helped decrease the time to complete documentation, reduce daily clerical work and improved efficiency.

After the initial shock of the pandemic, physicians hoping to return to “normal” quickly realized that wasn't an option. Most doctors' offices and other medical facilities-imposed restrictions to control the transmission of COVID-19, and as a result, the in-person medical scribe's role changed drastically.

First and foremost, in an effort to reduce the number of people who could transmit or become infected with COVID-19, many practices removed scribes from treatment rooms. Moreover, like other office personnel, some scribes were reluctant to return and risk exposure. The combined effect was a decrease in the prevalence of in-person scribes.

Transitioning from In-Person to Virtual Medical Scribes

On the whole, the healthcare industry responded rapidly to COVID-19, transitioning to more virtual care delivery and online interactions, and redeploying medical personnel to meet evolving needs. For scribing, while they existed before the onset of the pandemic, Virtual Medical Scribe services quickly gained popularity. Physicians who were no longer willing or able to hire an in-person scribe discovered that Virtual Scribe options were available and equally as effective–if not more so–as in-person scribes.

While the data is still catching up with this transition, the National Center for Biotechnology Information predicts that “the scribe industry will evolve, with virtual options becoming standard.” Another study found that 82% of providers strongly agreed scribes were just as helpful during telemedicine visits as during in-person visits.

Virtual Scribes Enhance the Doctor-Patient Relationship

A huge advantage of Virtual Medical Scribes is their ability to offer real-time documentation support without being physically present in the room. Not only does this eliminate the risk of virus exposure, but it can also increase the comfort level of both the patient and physician.

Having a scribe in the room can negatively impact what the patient is comfortable disclosing, and in many cases, patients find them intrusive. Physicians can also find in-person scribes to be a problem, with many concerned that the intrusiveness limits the quality of their communication with the patient.

Clearly, compared to physicians who perform their own documentation, those using a Virtual Scribe are creating a better environment for their patients. Patients want to feel their doctor is fully invested in them and focused on their health concerns during their appointments. They can often feel a lack of engagement when the doctor concentrates on updating the EHR. Virtual Medical Scribes allow physicians to have more in-depth conversations with their patients, actively listening and advising based on an individual patient’s unique needs.

One study found that 57 percent of patients said their physicians spent less time on the computer during the visit when they were assisted by a scribe and more time than usual speaking to them.

Virtual Medical Scribes are Available Anywhere, Anytime

Whether it is a lingering impact from the pandemic, or just a result of increased consolidation of health systems, physicians today are more likely than ever to work across multiple facilities. This is another situation where Virtual Scribes have a built-in advantage over in-person scribes. As physicians travel from location to location to see patients, they are only in one place for a short time, which presents logistical obstacles for those using an in-person scribe.

But Virtual Medical Scribes, of course, can easily carry out their duties no matter where the physician is working at the time, as long as they have a working internet connection. And, unlike a single in-person scribe who may call in sick or take a vacation, most Virtual Scribe services have a "bank" of scribes so that you're never left short-handed. If your assigned scribe is unavailable for whatever reason, another scribe will fill in for them.

Healthcare professionals have certainly taken on more than their fair share of challenges in the last few years. Dealing with the lasting effects of the pandemic presents yet another one. However, as it relates to physician documentation, new and better resources are coming to the rescue. COVID-19 may have killed the in-person scribe, but thanks to Virtual Scribes, the future of documentation is in a better place.

Physicians Angels is the industry's first Virtual Scribe company, providing real-time documentation directly into the physician's EMR, along with Virtual Back Office services. Our services save the physician an average of 10 hours per week, thereby improving patient throughput and contributing to a better work/life balance for the physician and office staff. To learn more, visit or contact us.

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Physicians Angels

More time for physicians to see more patients, provide better care, and live their lives. Physicians Angels provides one-of-a-kind EMR data management services to healthcare providers through our real time Virtual Scribe service.