Virtual Medical Scribe Services: Are They Worth the Cost Savings?

If you’re a medical practitioner, chances are you’re up to your neck in things to do every day. Between seeing patients, updating charts, prescribing medications, and handling administrative tasks, there just aren’t enough hours. 

Virtual medical scribes are the answer to that time drain, as they offer tempting benefits like lower costs and added flexibility compared to in-person scribes. 

But do you really want to hand off all of that clerical work to a stranger? Are virtual medical scribes just another headache in a world that seems intent on upping your Tylenol intake? Are there any alternatives? 

Read on, because in this article we’ll tackle: 

Let’s get started! 

Just what is a virtual medical scribe?

A virtual medical scribe is essentially an offsite scribe who helps out physicians with charting patient encounters remotely via telecommunications technology

They listen in on the audio of the visit through a HIPAA-compliant audio feed and view any electronic health records (EHRs) on their screen in real time.

As the doc conducts the visit, the virtual scribe captures the details of the patient's chief complaint, medical history, exam findings, diagnosis, treatment plan, and any other follow-up needs. 

The scribe then creates comprehensive clinical notes, updates problem lists, enters charges, and makes sure that they cross every t and dot every i.

The ups and downs of a virtual medical scribe

Virtual medical scribes offer some excellent benefits over traditional in-person scribes.

For starters, they’re often more budget-friendly since you’re not paying for things like transportation, workspace, and benefits. 

Also, they tend to be readily available, so you can easily scale the service up or down as needed – without needing to sign a long-term contract. 

They also tend to be highly-trained medical professionals, so there’s not much of a chance of them being confused about medical terminology.

However, there are a few downsides to keep in mind: 

Also, keep in mind that the scribe industry as a whole lacks standardization, so experiences with virtual scribes can vary widely. 

So, it’s important that you do your homework and check reviews to find a service that has a proven track record of accurate, high-quality notes and a rigorous training program for scribes. Patient care should always come first, as you know. 

What are the alternatives?

If virtual medical scribes don’t seem like the right fit for your practice, you have other options to keep in mind before you go back to taking down notes yourself.

They are: 

Traditional on-site medical scribes

These scribes work directly in the exam room with physicians, documenting the encounter as it happens. 

While on-site scribes may give you a more customized experience, they often come with a higher price tag (the national average is around $18) due to costs like salary, benefits, and office space. 

They can also feel like an intrusion into the patient-physician interaction for some – as in, “What’s this person doing here, exactly?”

Go hybrid

For many practices, a hybrid model that incorporates both virtual and in-person scribes may be the best approach. 

Use virtual scribes for routine patient visits where their limitations won’t significantly impact the quality of care, and then rely on traditional scribes for more complex cases, or when the nuances of an in-person interaction are most important.

Voice-to-text software (just talk to it!)

Voice-to-text software that converts speech into text is improving by the minute.

However, some of the most common programs struggle with medical terminology and in noisy environments like exam rooms.

Some voice-to-text programs require physicians to speak clearly and dictate notes in a very specific way, which can feel unnatural and impact patient rapport. Also, accuracy still continues to be a factor, often requiring heavy editing. 

AI-powered virtual scribes 

Some forward-thinking healthcare organizations are already seeing benefits from AI scribes - software that uses natural language processing and machine learning to automatically generate clinical notes in the EHR. 

AI scribes don’t need salaries or benefits and can work 24/7. And, AI is becoming increasingly (and rapidly!)  well-versed in understanding medical jargon, and even learning a doctor’s speech patterns and abbreviations. 

Dictation and transcription

Physicians can audio record or dictate patient encounters for human transcriptionists to convert to text notes – or even do it themselves after the fact.

However, turnaround times are often too slow for practical use and quality can vary. It also doesn’t solve the issue of doctors (that’s you) needing to spend extra time reviewing and editing notes.

AI scribes: Cost savings, no downsides

Virtual scribe services powered by artificial intelligence offer an attractive alternative with practically zero downsides. 

For physicians and healthcare organizations, AI scribes translate into tremendous cost savings

Lindy, for example, charges a low monthly subscription fee ($99) for detailed transcriptions that go straight into your EHRs. Now, compare this to the $20,000 to $100,000 per year to employ a human scribe. 

Also, AI scribes also reduce liability risks from improperly trained scribes and eliminate privacy concerns with third-party scribes in the exam room.

With AI scribes physicians can: 

For patients: 

This improved interaction leads to patients feeling more heard and cared for, which contributes to higher patient satisfaction scores and better overall health outcomes. As someone in some TV show said, “Everybody wins.” 

The top 5 virtual medical scribe companies

Virtual medical scribe companies offer their services remotely using secure digital communications and cloud-based platforms. We’ve rounded up the best five so you know where to start. 

We’ve already written extensively about these platforms, so check out our article if you want to go in-depth!

But, if you’d like the TL;DR, here it is: 

ProScribe MD

While primarily known for on-site scribes, ProScribe MD offers a unique "hybrid" virtual program. Their U.S.-based scribes use secure video conferencing technology to document patient encounters remotely, seamlessly blending real-time charting with in-person physician interaction.

ScribeWell

ScribeWell ditches the cookie-cutter approach, crafting solutions tailored to each client's documentation style. 

Their scribes actively engage with physicians, asking clarifying questions and flagging potential issues, which fosters collaboration through a unique portal where you can create custom note templates, reflecting your preferred format and terminology. 

Also, their interactive platform also handles scheduling, report access, and communication channels, making your life a bit easier.

ScribeAmerica

Though traditionally an on-site powerhouse, ScribeAmerica now offers an excellent virtual scribe program. 

Their ultra-vast network of over 10,000 trained scribes includes many remote professionals equipped with laptops, dictation headsets, and secure connections. 

Plus, they cater to a very wide variety of clinical specialties. 

Aquity Solutions

Aquity Solutions provides technology-enabled medical scribe services, including live virtual scribes. Their scribes document patient encounters via audio and video using a secure, HIPAA-compliant cloud-based platform. 

The Remote Scribe

With a huge focus on cost-effectiveness, The Remote Scribe offers virtual scribe programs tailored to emergency medicine, outpatient, and inpatient settings. 

Their U.S.-based scribes provide real-time documentation through a secure audio-visual platform, helping to alleviate administrative burdens, boost productivity – and improve that ever-elusive physician work-life balance.

Summing up

As with everything in life, virtual medical scribes have their perks and tradeoffs. 

Yes, compared to in-person scribes, virtual options mean less human connection and potential tech hiccups. 

But, AI-powered scribes like Lindy negate those downsides and nip those issues in the bud. They’re definitely a smart alternative for medical practices that want to see fast, permanent gains in both time and money saved. 

Next steps:

Is day-to-day clerical work robbing you of valuable patient face-time? Lindy’s cutting-edge superhuman AI is here to offer the perfect virtual medical scribe alternative.

Don’t take our word for it. Try it out for free and see why thousands of practitioners are charting with Lindy.

Explore AI-powered, HIPAA-compliant Medical Dictation with Lindy