How Much Do Medical Scribes Make?

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Medical scribing is a quickly growing profession, especially as more and more hospitals and doctors’ offices are turning to electronic record keeping. Some scribes are currently making an average of $48,000 annually, but pay and advancement are dependent on geographic location as well as the type of facility they are employed with.

Demand

Studies have found that medical scribes can improve a medical professional’s productivity. One review of five studies of scribes in emergency room and clinical settings reported in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine finds medical scribes “improve clinician satisfaction, productivity, time-related efficiencies, revenue, and patient-clinician interactions.”

With the growing popularity of electronic health records (EHRs), the medical scribe profession is in high demand, as doctors and medical facilities look for ways to run their practices more efficiently and cost-effectively.

According to a July 2016 report in Crain’s Cleveland, Dr. Michael Murphy, CEO and co-founder of Scribe America, currently, there may be up to 20,000 medical scribes in the United States, and that number is expected to grow to 100,000 by the year 2020.

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What Do Medical Scribes Do?

The medical scribe, also known as a physician’s scribe, accompanies the medical professional—a doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, or physician’s aide—during patient encounters and writes down or types up important information, including vitals, concerns, and treatment plans, to be included in the patient’s electronic health record. The scribe is performing clerical tasks that were once done by doctors in a handwritten chart. This way, doctors have more time to focus on patient care. Medical scribes are also responsible for preparing documentation in the EHR.

Medical scribes can work in hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, or in research facilities. They gain exposure to the day-to-day happenings of licensed medical professionals as they participate in real-time patient encounters, including during medical appointments and emergency room visits. 

Roles and responsibilities are dependent on the needs of the medical practitioners. Most medical providers who use scribes rely on them heavily and need people who can produce error-free documentation requiring little review and changes. 

Duties of medical scribes may include:

  • Assisting the medical provider in EHR
  • Responding to messages directed by the medical provider
  • Locating information including notes, tests, and reports
  • Entering information into the EHR
  • Researching information under the direction of the medical provider

Medical providers and facilities are usually responsible for hiring their own medical scribes. Most of the time, scribes come through agencies that act as a middleman in the hiring process. These agencies will sometimes recruit and train medical scribes as well.

Training

The medical scribe’s role is new to healthcare, but it is a role that is quickly evolving. Currently, medical scribes do not need licensing, but the American College of Medical Scribe Specialists and some recruiting agencies, such as ScribeAmerica, offer training, certification, and testing for people interested in becoming medical scribes. 

Regardless of their training and/or education, medical scribes need to have skills and knowledge in the following areas, according to the guidelines of The American Health Information Management Association:

  • Medical terminology and spelling
  • Basic anatomy understanding
  • Basic coding knowledge
  • Understanding of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Computer skills, including EHR programs 
  • General understanding of the responsibilities of doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, and physician assistants

Hourly and Annual Pay

According to the website PayScale, the hourly pay for medical scribes ranges from $9.03 to $16.61, or $17,649 to $48,485 annually.

Another popular job search website, Indeed.com, shows the average hourly pay for scribes is around $13.31 per hour. HospitalCareers.com shows the average hourly pay to be $18.68 per hour for a medical scribe in a hospital setting, but some hospital scribes could be making close to $23 per hour based on their experience and geographic location.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have any salary data specific to the medical scribe profession. Data on medical transcriptionists, however, as of May 2017, shows an hourly pay range from $11.46 to $22.07. The medical scribe role is different than that of a medical transcriptionist who receives a recording and transcribes it.  

Just like any other profession, the salary of the medical scribe will depend on the amount of experience of the scribe and education, the employer, and location. The places that may offer better pay are large hospitals, medical centers, research laboratories, and clinics. Doctors’ offices may not pay as much but they are good starting points for getting experience, especially early on in a person’s career. 

Advancement might be limited but the field is quickly growing and people who are employed at larger medical facilities have room for increased pay and advancement. Furthermore, as the field grows, opportunities will increase. Current advancement opportunities for medical scribes include project leaders, managers, and trainers, and there are likely more opportunities on the horizon. The medical scribe field is also a great place to start for someone looking to advance their career further into the medical field.

A Word From Verywell

The job growth rate for medical scribes is predicted to be faster than other careers in the medical field. The current demand for medical scribe services has never been higher and the competition in the field is very intense with promising advancement opportunities. It is a great starting point for anyone looking to advance into the medical field as a doctor, physician assistant, nurse or nurse practitioner. 

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