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Transcription Services vs. In-Person Scribes vs. Virtual Scribes: Which is Right for You?

Doctor using a tablet deciding between scribe services

Technology has played a pivotal role in helping providers streamline processes, improve patient care and increase efficiency. This can be seen in the evolution of physician documentation from self-entered notes to various support options such as transcription and scribes. While these support services have become invaluable to healthcare providers to offset some of the heavy load of documenting patient encounters, there are key differences between them, and each has its own set of pros and cons.

Let's explore these differences and discuss why virtual scribes have emerged as a viable option for physicians.


The Pros and Cons of Transcription Services

Transcription services involve converting dictated or recorded patient notes into written documentation. Traditionally, a healthcare provider would dictate their observations, diagnoses and treatment plans, and a medical transcriptionist would transcribe these notes into a written format. Nowadays, there are several voice-to-text software packages that attempt to automatically transcribe physicians’ spoken words. However, a human is needed to go over the automatically generated transcription and make editing changes to ensure it’s really accurate.

Pros of Transcription Services

  • Flexibility: Notes can be transcribed from various recording devices.
  • Confidentiality: Compliance with patient data protection regulations is a priority.

Cons of Transcription Services

  • Time-Consuming: The process can be slow, with turnaround times ranging from hours to days.
  • Costly: Employing dedicated transcriptionists can be expensive, especially if the transcriptionists are based in the U.S.
  • Limited Real-Time Support: Transcriptions are usually not available during the patient encounter.
  • Accuracy: With voice-to-text transcription services, you're relying on AI to write the notes accurately. In the medical world, tiny typos or misunderstandings can have big ramifications, so these errors can't be taken lightly. Inaccuracies may come from poor-quality recordings.


The Pros and Cons of In-Person Scribes

In-person scribes are physically present, which may initially appear advantageous. However, certain drawbacks are associated with employing in-person scribes in your medical practice. Therefore, physicians must evaluate the pros and cons before opting for in-person scribes as an alternative to transcription or virtual scribe services.

Pros of In-Person Scribes

  • Familiarity with Practice: Over time, in-person scribes become intimately familiar with the healthcare provider's practice, preferences, and documentation style.
  • Non-Reliance on Technology: In-person scribes do not depend on remote technology or internet connectivity, reducing the risk of technical interruptions during patient encounters.

Cons of In-Person Scribes

  • Higher Costs: Employing in-person scribes can be more expensive than virtual scribe services.
  • Limited Flexibility: In-person scribes are typically present on-site during specific hours, which may not align with the physician's entire work schedule.
  • Space Constraints: Having in-person scribes present in examination rooms may make the rooms feel crowded and less welcoming, affecting the overall patient experience.
  • Training and Turnover: Training and dealing with turnover can be time-consuming and resource-intensive for healthcare practices.


The Pros and Cons of Virtual Scribes

Virtual scribes, on the other hand, are healthcare professionals who assist physicians in real time during patient encounters. They can be located remotely from anywhere in the world, providing direct support to the healthcare provider. The virtual scribe listens during patient appointments to document relevant information and updates each patient's medical history. They serve as an extension of the physician's team, handling tasks like navigating the electronic medical records (EMR).

Pros of Virtual Scribes

  • Real-Time Documentation: Scribes document patient encounters in real time, allowing immediate access to accurate notes.
  • Enhanced Efficiency: Physicians can focus on patient care rather than paperwork.
  • Cost-Effective: Virtual scribe services are often more affordable than hiring in-person scribes and typically competitive with transcription costs.

Cons of Virtual Scribes

  • Initial Integration: It may take some time to fully integrate virtual scribe services into a medical practice, or become used to working with a staffer who is not physically present in your office. However, the time spent on the initial integration process ensures the scribes understand the needs of your practice and your preferences, which leads to greater overall efficiency.
  • Privacy Concerns: Ensuring secure data transmission is crucial. While this is a valid concern for those who have never used virtual scribe services before, services like those from Physicians Angels follow all requirements to ensure they adhere to HIPAA and your unique security protocols.


How to Choose the Best Solution for Your Documentation Needs

While transcription services, in-person scribes and virtual scribes all serve a similar purpose, choosing the right solution for your practice comes down to how they perform across these key factors:

Real-Time Documentation

Real-time documentation allows physicians to focus on patient care without worrying about post-visit paperwork. This immediate access to accurate notes improves efficiency and reduces the risk of errors.


Some cost factors are obvious–such as the direct cost paid to the service–while other costs are less so (e.g., the impact of time savings on the provider’s work-life balance, the ability to use as much or as little as needed).

Enhanced Workflow

Which option can best adapt to each physician's unique needs and preferences and streamline workflow? This includes evaluating the impact on the time required by the physician to interact, review and approve notes

Patient Experience

The impact on the patient must be a prime consideration, as any discomfort, obstacle or distraction can influence care quality and outcomes, and even affect the practice’s bottom line.


Ideally, the option you choose can be tailored to meet your specific needs. For example, you may need assistance during every patient encounter or only for certain days or situations.


Your geographic location, or your involvement with telemedicine, offsite or other types of patient encounters may be an important consideration, with remote documentation options providing far greater accessibility. 

Medical transcription and in-person scribe services have played a valuable role in healthcare documentation for many years. However, as technology advances, virtual scribe services have emerged as a viable option for many physicians. Because they score highly across each of the key decision factors, virtual scribes have become an increasingly attractive choice for healthcare providers seeking ways to improve patient care and streamline their practices.


Physicians Angels was the industry's first Virtual Scribe company, providing real-time documentation directly into the physician's EMR, along with our Staffing Angels back-office support services. Our services improve patient throughput, practice financial performance and contribute to a better work/life balance for the physician and office staff. To learn more, visit or contact us.

About the author

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.