The tremendous potential of electronic health records (EHRs) to lower costs and improve outcomes is well known. What is less acknowledge are the tremendous logistical challenges that come with transitioning from print to digital. As the first big wave of EHR implementation has gone into effect, many doctors have found that they are spending unacceptable amounts of time and effort filling out digital records rather than working with patients.

The source of this frustration is twofold. Doctors now have to essentially take two sets of notes as they simultaneously process what a patient is telling  them and then enter it into electronic forms. They also have to work within electronic filing systems that are unfamiliar, require standardized inputs, and demand a more granulated level of detail. In the effort to commit to EHRs, doctors end up doing a disservice to their patience and utilizing electronic filing systems in a shallow way.

That is why doctors are increasingly turning to medical scribes to handle the administrative challenges of EHRs. Reports from across the country indicate that recruitment of medical scribes is skyrocketing, and growing numbers of job seekers interested in the healthcare field are considering scribe jobs over other entry points. Most experts agree that this demand will only grow as EHRs increasingly become the norm. By 2015, all doctors will need to utilize them or face Medicare penalties.

The job of a medical scribe is much like that of a court reporter. After receiving specialized training, scribes sit in the examination room and record the observations of the doctor by typing notes and speaking into a specialized microphone. Their training allows them to prioritize information, work with a variety of record keeping systems, and immediately align the notes taken with billing codes. When the record is complete, it is reviewed and approved by the attending physician.

The rise in demand for medical scribes is both good news and bad new for boosters of EHRs. It is positive because it points to the willingness of doctors to adapt to the challenges of EHRs, even if it means hiring new staff and adjusting to having a scribe shadow their examinations. Conversely, it points to the unexpected challenges of EHR implementation and the limitations of the technology in place. No one expected this transition to be an easy one, but now that it has started, it is proving to be even less predictable and more demanding than many had anticipated.

What is clear is that HIM is more urgent than ever, and it presents both challenges and opportunities for employers and job seekers. As EHRs continue to transform the healthcare landscape, work with expert recruiters at MedPartners HIM to stay ahead of the curve.