The future of medical scribes documenting in the electronic health record: results of an expert consensus conference

BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2021 Jun 29;21(1):204. doi: 10.1186/s12911-021-01560-4.


Background: With the use of electronic health records (EHRs) increasing and causing unintended negative consequences, the medical scribe profession has burgeoned, but it has yet to be regulated. The purpose of this study was to describe scribe workflow as well as identify the threats and opportunities for the future of the scribe industry.

Methods: The first phase of the study used ethnographic methods consisting of interviews and observations by a multi-disciplinary team of researchers at five United States sites. In April 2019, a two-day conference of experts representing different stakeholder perspectives was held to discuss the results from site visits and to predict the future of medical scribing. An interpretive content analysis approach was used to discover threats and opportunities for the future of medical scribes.

Results: Threats facing the medical scribe industry were related to changes in the documentation model, EHR usability, different payment structures, the need to acquire disparate data during clinical encounters, and workforce-related changes relevant to the scribing model. Simultaneously, opportunities for medical scribing in the future included extension of their role to include workflow analysis, acting as EHR-related subject-matter-experts, and becoming integrated more effectively into the clinical care delivery team. Experts thought that if EHR usability increases, the need for medical scribes might decrease. Additionally, the scribe role could be expanded to allow scribes to document more or take on more informatics-related tasks. The experts also anticipated an increased use of alternative models of scribing, like tele-scribing.

Conclusion: Threats and opportunities for medical scribing were identified. Many experts thought that if the scribe role could be expanded to allow scribes to document more or take on more informatics activities, it would be beneficial. With COVID-19 continuing to change workflows, it is critical that medical scribes receive standardized training as tele-scribing continues to grow in popularity and new roles for scribes as medical team members are identified.

Keywords: Consensus Conference; Content Analysis Approach; EHR; Medical Scribes; Qualitative Research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Documentation
  • Electronic Health Records*
  • Humans
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Workflow