FAQs about Virtual Scribes

We at Physicians Angels are asked often about the technical details of how our service works, and what makes our Virtual Scribes different from other medical scribe companies.  Below are the most common questions we receive about Virtual Scribes, and our answers:

1) “Doesn’t a Virtual Scribe need to see the patients?  Isn’t video needed?”

Not at all.  We do not need to see patients.  We only need to hear the provider-patient encounter.  This is how we have done things for 1,000s of providers since we started as the world’s first Virtual Scribe company in 2007.  Based on what the provider vocalizes to the patient – abnormal findings, plan, medications, treatments, etc. – our Virtual Scribes document the patient’s chart in real-time in the EMR. 

Video provides no value-added with Virtual Scribes.  Video can even lead to more errors.  Even if a scribe could see what a provider is doing, how can the scribe be sure what exactly to chart?  After all, a medical scribe, while highly trained, is not an experienced and board-certified physician.  The physician still must vocalize what is needed in the patient’s chart.  If the scribe assumes what to chart, based on what he sees through video, the scribe will make more mistakes than necessary.  Having the provider vocalize what needs to be charted eliminates these errors – plus, it improves patient satisfaction.

Plus, video takes consumes a lot of Internet bandwidth and can crash frequently.  It can be distracting to patients as well, lowering your patient satisfaction rates.  At Physicians Angels, we use simple and secure VOIP technologies, like Skype for Business, that require minimal bandwidth.  And as the patients cannot see our technology, they are not bothered by it.  This allows the provider to focus on the patient care, and not on more distracting technology.

2) “Isn’t using a speech recognition tool, like Dragon, more time-saving and error-free than working with a Virtual Scribe?”

Recent research has not supported this.  A July 2018 study in The Journal of the American Medical Association, entitled “Analysis of Errors in Dictated Clinical Documents Assisted by Speech Recognition Software and Professional Transcriptionists,” found an error rate of more than 7% in clinical documents charted using speech recognition software.  The study concluded that a human touch to edit and review was vital to error-free clinical documentation.  In sum, charts completed using speech recognition software tools still require hours of editing and correcting.

Many of Physicians Angels’ Virtual Scribe clients are former users of speech recognition software.  Their feedback is consistent:  Speech recognition tools result in too many errors that providers need to correct later.  Physicians save little-to-no time using speech recognition software over doing the charting themselves.  A physician is better off in hiring a Virtual Scribe to do the charting in real-time, which results in less documentation errors, better quality charts, and saving more time in the long run.

3) “Our physicians are burned out with their EMR.  They feel like they have paid too much on technology, with no results.  So, why should we have to pay more money for a Virtual Scribe?”

As you probably realize, solving IT burn-out with more IT – speech recognition; even more EMR training; improved templates or EMR user interfaces, etc. – will not work.  These IT fixes only layer more technology and multitasking on top of a providers’ already busy day.

Moreover, independent research in the past few years, as published by groups like the AMA, show that what is needed is a human touch to input, review, and edit clinical data efficiently and error-free into patient charts.  Virtual Scribes provide this for you by serving as trained and certified EMR data managers.

Another way to think about the cost of a Virtual Scribe is as follows: Physicians Angels’ services cost $12-16 per hour.  Assume an 8- or 9-hour clinic day.  On average then, our Virtual Scribes will cost you $100-$150 per day. Now, asking a provider who earns your clinic $300-400 per hour seeing patients to, instead, chart for 1-2 hours minimum each day will cost you much more – closer to $1,000 per day in lost productivity, plus the costs related to provider burn-out and stress.

So, if you are not paying for a Virtual Scribe, then you are paying with a provider’s time – and risking physician burn-out.  So, which is the better deal for your clinic?