What is the best way to hire medical scribes?

We dive into some best practices to help you kick-start and improve your medical scribe program

Whether you are a rural clinic looking for some documentation help or a large urban hospital system with an existing medical scribe program in place, we have some tips and tools to help you hire, train, and retain your medical scribes or take your medical scribe program to the next level.

We touched upon the best way to hire medical scribes in our FAQ section, but it isn’t easy to explain the processes involved and the best practices in the hiring of medical scribes in just a few words. Unlike hiring an NP or a PA, where qualifications are objective and skills and experiences easier to sift through, medical scribes are often less experienced and lack consistency in education than more established healthcare roles. Despite this, they work more closely with medical providers than any other role in healthcare.

Chances are, since you’re reading this blog post, we’re pretty confident you are well versed in the importance of medical scribes to alleviate documentation burdens from providers. So let’s go right into some of the best practices we have discovered over the past decade of providing and implementing full-service medical scribe programs to countless healthcare organizations.

We look at this from two perspectives: 1) Organizations looking to START a medical scribe program; and, 2) Organizations who already have a medical scribe program in place but are looking to internalize it.

Healthcare Organizations looking to START a scribe program

Shockingly, even though medical scribes have been supporting doctors with documentation and clerical tasks for over twenty (20) years now, today only one (1) out of every nine (9) physicians utilize medical scribes in their practice. That is a shockingly low percentage given how much data there is showing scribes improve provider morale and satisfaction, increase physician output, improve revenue, and increase EHR efficiency and accuracy.

Given that our mission is to provide scribes to “any provider, any time, anywhere,” we’re happy to share these tips and tricks on how to get your scribe program off the ground.

Ask questions. Lots of them.

If you are the medical director of a group or an administrator for a clinic, you are used to hiring medical professionals. However, you may have more questions and difficulty vetting pre-med or pre-PA students who themselves have no or minimal prior work experience in the healthcare industry. How do you screen and identify those with potential?

Here is where asking lots of questions helps. Ask your peers who have had experiences with medical scribes. See how they set up their hiring process, training and onboarding, and ongoing management of their medical scribes. It does not hurt to copy their process if you share the same challenges and resources, and same geographical access to a pool of applicants.

Speaking of applicants, asking lots of questions during the hiring and interviewing process will provide you with a sense of the candidate’s personality. One of the most important aspects of the working relationship between a provider and their medical scribe is how they mesh. Ask key questions about their motivation and assess their personality to ensure a good fit.

At ScribeConnect, we provide training and resources on how to recruit, vet, and identify quality medical scribe candidates.

Evaluate for key skillsets and knowledge.

There are key skills that a successful medical scribe absolutely must possess. The ability, for example, to quickly and accurately type and take notes as the physician interacts with a patient is fundamental to being a successful medical scribe. While a deep understanding of all aspects of medicine would be great, candidates should, at minimum, command a basic level of knowledge covering areas such as medical terminology, anatomy & physiology, diagnostics techniques & diagnoses, pharmacology, disease processes, procedures, and more to help them integrate successfully into the patient care team.

Listening and communication skills are also key to a medical scribe. These skillsets are not easily discerned from a resume and are better evaluated during in-person interviews.

Don’t be afraid to evaluate the candidate’s note-taking abilities, short-hand, and typing speed in your screening process. Pay attention to their in-person interactions but prioritize their ability to listen and process information.

Assess your needs. Set yourself up for a successful medical scribe program.

Some key areas of importance are:

  • Geographical challenges – Do you have easy access to a large pool of scribe candidates? Good sources of medical scribe candidates may look different from one area to another. Allied health professionals, Pre-Med, and Pre-PA students are individuals who tend to make great medical scribes.
  • Numbers or hours of scribe shifts – Determine ahead of time how many hours and the number of shifts in which your physician is in need of documentation assistance. Develop a clear understanding of the scribe coverage you will need to adequately provide coverage.
  • Numbers of locations – If your organization has multiple locations, or if you staff physicians for multiple hospitals, you will have a different need than a single primary care clinic.
  • Type of care provided – Emergency medicine needs are different than a cardiologist or primary care/internist.

There are other factors to keep in mind as you start your medical scribe program to help your doctors. Historically, medical scribes have been Pre-Med and Pre-PA students in transition into their graduate studies who are using the opportunity to gain valuable experience and clinical time to become future medical providers themselves. Because of this, medical scribes typically have a turnover rate of 12-24 months. You can REDUCE TURNOVER by targeting individuals with allied health degrees and paying them a higher hourly rate. Individuals from allied health degree programs such as MA, Techs, LPNs, and others are typically looking for more consistent part-time or full-time work on an on-going basis and are more likely to be dedicated over the long-haul.

Looking to improve your existing scribe program

Whether you contract through a third-party, full-service medical scribe provider, or hire your own in-house scribes, there is always room for improvement. Here are some of what we considered best practices for those with an existing scribe program.

Hiring is only the first step.

“Hire, train, and retain” is another mantra that we at ScribeConnect live by. Hiring may be the first step, but the training of your medical scribe, and retaining them during the transition period between their education and post-graduate work is just as important as the hiring process outlined above.

Encourage your scribe candidates to get basic scribe training done before or during their onboarding process. Place emphasis on getting them trained and ready for actual shifts by shadowing an experienced scribe. As you can see from our scribe interviews below, most find the actual challenges of scribe training to be daunting and the most difficult part of the process. Make it easy by giving them the tools and resources like our online, Comprehensive Medical Scribe Training Course (Comp-MSTC) before their first day on the job.

Ongoing education is key.

A scribe’s content knowledge needs to evolve regularly. Insurance and CMS coding requirements, regulations, treatments, and other areas are always evolving and changing. As an important part staying up to date with these changes and providing a high level of documentation assistance for providers, medical scribes need to be engaged in a continuing medical education, or Continuing Scribe Education (CSE), program. Medical scribes are at the frontlines of the constant change and evolution that happens almost by the minute.

As you are planning out your medical scribe program and how best to set it up for success over the long-term, consider the necessity of an ongoing education program as a core part of this success. Know and understand that for most scribes, this is THE start of their career in medicine, and provide them with the tools and education necessary to keep them updated.

The best scribes are the ones that are actually available.

Yes we just invented that saying. But it’s true. When hiring scribes, consider your actual workload and shifts, and always have more scribes on hand to cover spread across multiple shifts. Structure your scribe team with some flexibility in shift coverage. If you have 4 physicians, don’t just hire 4 scribes. Hire 5 or 6 scribes, and spread the shifts around. For providers, one of the areas that will cause the greatest frustration is having a scribe call out sick and not have someone available as backup. Consider cross-training additional staff who may be able to cover in an emergency situation should a scribe call out sick or otherwise not be available for a scheduled shift.

Find a way to better manage the hiring process.

Hey, it’s 2022! We’ve all heard of the “great American resignation.” There’s a fundamental shift in the workforce today that requires every administrator and hiring manager to rethink and retool their hiring process. The days of posting a couple of jobs on a job board and shifting through thousands of resumes for that needle in the haystack MANUALLY are over. The days of going through interviews and not responding to candidates for days or weeks are over.

You need to have a process in place to organize and manage available candidates, sort through their candidate profiles, message and contact them promptly for updates, and respond to their inquiries in a timely manner.

We have a FREE Applicant Tracking System (ATS) tool designed specifically for hiring medical scribes that allows you to aggregate your job postings, manage and organize your applicants, track and communicate with each qualified candidate, and search a pool of thousands of potential scribes.

Best practices platform image for ScribeConnect
Our online platform allows you to track your job postings and applicant status

Finally, whether you are just looking to start your own scribe program, or you are looking to expand your current scribe team, or are just looking to pick someone’s brain on how best to optimize your documentation processes and needs, we are here to help. Schedule a meeting or contact us HERE and we would be happy to provide a free audit and support your organization in determining the best path forward.


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