What’s The Difference Between A Medical Scribe And A Medical Transcriptionist?

Though often mistaken for one another, medical transcriptionists and medical scribes have key differences. Knowing these differences allows healthcare professionals to choose which documentation specialist suits their practice, giving them more value for their money while ensuring efficiency and accuracy. 

In this article, you’ll learn how: 

  • Medical scribes focus on real-time patient encounters and are physically or remotely present during clinical hours. 
  • Medical transcriptionists transcribe physicians’ dictated audio recordings into written reports that can be integrated into documentation workflows or electronic recording systems. 
  • Transcriptionists and scribes have different work environments and different flexibility. Both positions can benefit from extensive experience and certification. 

Definition Of Medical Transcriptionist And Medical Scribe

Medical transcriptionists and scribes are often interchangeable terms used for professionals who help with healthcare documentation and patient care. However, they are different in many ways. First, let’s start with definitions. 

Medical ScribeMedical Transcriptionist
DefinitionA medical scribe accompanies physicians during patient encounters to handle data entry, documentation, and other patient-related tasks.A medical transcriptionist listens to physicians’ voice recordings and transcribes them into written reports.

Key Differences 

Here’s a summary of the differences between medical transcriptionists and medical scribes: 

  • Key responsibilities: Professional medical scribes are like personal assistants. They handle real-time documentation, clinical assistance, and other clerical and administrative tasks. Medical transcriptionists convert dictated audio files into text format. 
  • Work environment: Medical scribes often spend time at the physician’s side, providing clinical and administrative services as required. There are also virtual medical scribes that provide their services over teleconferencing platforms. Meanwhile, transcriptionists work remotely, either in the comfort of their own home or in an office, such as ours here in Denver, Colorado. 
  • Experience and certification: Both healthcare jobs require medical experience and have certification programs, primarily from AHDI. While not strictly required, being a certified medical transcriptionist or scribe can lead to higher positions and better pay. 
  • Average salary: Medical scribes make an average of $38,023 per year & medical transcriptionists make an average of $34,846 annually. Of course, their full salary highly depends on the training program type attended, relevant experience, and certification. Also, in-house medical scribes cost an additional ±30% overhead for time off, taxes, benefits, office space and equipment.
  • Work arrangement: Scribes and transcriptionists can be hired full-time, part-time, or freelance. In-house medical scribes and transcriptionists may be too expensive for smaller medical practices. 

Outsourced medical transcription services like Ditto Transcripts offer medical transcription services, allowing medical professionals to choose the correct service for accurate, efficient, affordable, and HIPAA-compliant services. 

Primary Role Of Medical Scribes

The key difference between medical scribes and medical transcriptionists is that scribes offer real-time clinical and administrative assistance to healthcare professionals. Scribes provide services like: 

  • Documentation (EHR/EMR)
  • Archiving and Retrieval Of Patient Information
  • Coding and Data Entry
  • Real-time Charting
  • Patient Communication
  • Assisting During Examinations and Procedures
  • Follow-up Tasks

This arrangement creates a seamless workflow where healthcare professionals can focus on their work to improve overall positive patient outcomes and higher patient satisfaction. 

Required Certifications For Medical Scribes

Medical scribes must have relevant medical knowledge and experience with medical terminology and basic anatomy and physiology. 

While not a strict industry requirement, certain clinics and hospitals seek certification from their prospective scribes. For example, the American Healthcare Documentation Professionals Group offers Medical Scribe Certification (MSCE™) for aspiring medical scribes. Also offered is the Certified Healthcare Documentation Professional (CHDP) certification for auditors and scribes who document patients’ healthcare records.

Healthcare Events For Medical Scribes

Here are just some of the times when scribing services are often used: 

Healthcare EventHow Medical Scribes Can Help
Patient Consultations/ExaminationsDuring the consultation, scribes can document the patient’s history, symptoms, physician’s findings, and recommended treatment plans.
Surgical ProceduresDuring surgeries, scribes can record procedural steps, medications used, and any complications or observations noted by the surgical team.
Emergency Room VisitsIn fast-paced ER settings, scribes can quickly document patient information, treatment administered, and physician observations, aiding in efficient patient flow.
Outpatient ClinicsScribes can help with routine documentation of patient visits, allowing physicians to see more patients efficiently.
Diagnostic MeetingsWhile physicians discuss and interpret diagnostic results, scribes can record the findings and the planned course of action.
Medical RoundsIn hospital settings, scribes can accompany physicians on rounds, documenting patient progress, changes in medication, and new orders.
Telemedicine AppointmentsScribes can assist in virtual consultations by managing electronic health records and documenting the physician-patient interaction in real-time.
Specialist ConsultationsFor specialized care, scribes can ensure detailed documentation of specialized assessments and treatment plans.
Follow-up AppointmentsScribes can help update patient records with recovery progress and any modifications to treatment plans discussed during follow-up visits.

Primary Role Of Medical Transcriptionists

On the other hand, medical transcriptionists help with healthcare documentation by listening to audio recordings of physicians’ dictations and transcribing what was said. 

Doctors or medical scribes usually note essential details for patient encounters and then dictate them for transcription. Once submitted to the service provider, transcriptionists create transcripts or extract key information required by EHRs or EMRs. 

Like medical scribes, transcriptionists provide great value to doctors by removing the documentation burden and promoting patient satisfaction and wellness. However, they do not have direct interaction with healthcare professionals. 

Requirements and Certifications

Medical transcriptionists must have a working knowledge of medical procedures and technology. Specific training in medical terminology is also a plus. 

As for certification, the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity provides several credentials for both scribes and transcriptionists. Their credential levels are:

  • Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS) – Level 1: Suited for recent graduates or new medical documentation professionals with less than two years of experience.
  • Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS) – Level 2: Aimed at RHDS-certified individuals with over two years of relevant experience. This is the highest certification for medical transcriptionists provided by the AHDI. 

Healthcare Events For Medical Transcriptionists

Medical transcriptionists typically work on these types of recordings:

Healthcare EventHow Medical Transcriptionists Can Help
Patient ConsultationsTranscribe dictated patient notes from healthcare providers regarding symptoms, medical history, and treatment plans.
Surgical ProceduresDocumenting operative notes and post-operative instructions provided by surgeons for accurate and comprehensive medical records.
Diagnostic ImagingTranscribing radiologists’ interpretations of imaging studies, such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans, to create detailed reports for patient records.
Telemedicine AppointmentsConverting audio recordings of virtual consultations into written documentation to maintain accurate and accessible patient records.
Clinical Meetings and RoundsTranscribing discussions, recommendations, and decisions made during interdisciplinary team meetings or hospital rounds for comprehensive records.
Medical Research and StudiesAssisting in transcribing interviews, discussions, and findings related to medical research projects or clinical trials.
Emergency Room VisitsQuickly transcribing critical information from emergency room visits, including patient history, interventions, and outcomes, for timely decision-making.
Rehabilitation SessionsDocumenting therapy sessions, progress notes, and treatment plans outlined by rehabilitation specialists to monitor patient recovery.
Psychiatric AssessmentsTranscribing psychiatric evaluations, therapy sessions, and treatment plans to support ongoing mental health care and collaboration among providers.
Physician DictationConverting dictated physician notes regarding various medical encounters into written records for documentation and reference purposes.
Legal and Insurance DocumentationAssisting in transcribing medical reports for legal cases, insurance claims, and disability assessments to ensure accurate and detailed documentation.

Medical Transcription vs Scribing: Which One Should You Choose?

Medical transcriptionists and medical scribes come with different pros and cons, making them more suited to different circumstances. 

For example, Medical scribes are better suited when doctors need real-time documentation and general clinical assistance. Scribes typically accompany doctors physically or remotely, can directly work on medical documents, and input data into required fields in EHR or EMR systems. They can also handle certain aspects of patient care and charting work.

Of course, their brand of in-office assistance means they must have the space, equipment, and access necessary to do their jobs. 

That said, patients don’t always tell the whole truth to the doctor when an assistant is in the room. They don’t want to be judged, and I don’t blame them!

Not only that, with overhead like time off, taxes, benefits, office space and equipment means medical scribes cost 41.85% more than medical transcriptionists.

Medical transcriptionists provide documentation assistance by converting dictated information into text. Since transcriptionists handle recordings and are often off-site, they do not directly interact with patients. 


Ultimately, medical transcription services and scribes help clinics, hospitals, and healthcare offices with patient care. Their services lead to higher physician satisfaction, better patient experiences, and overall improvements in the medical field. 

Choose the one that’s best for your practice—but be careful when choosing. Not all providers can give you the quality and accuracy you need. 

Yet you don’t have to waste time looking high and low, especially when you have Ditto Transcripts. 

Our team of medical transcriptionists and scribes offers the highest quality of service in the medical industry. All our projects come with 99% accuracy guarantees and rigorous quality control guidelines. We will handle everything from patient charts to specialized consultation recordings and everything in between while you enjoy affordable rates, fast turnaround times, and HIPAA-compliant security. 

Ditto Transcripts is a HIPAA-compliant Denver, Colorado-based medical transcription services company that provides fast, accurate, and affordable transcripts for individuals and companies of all sizes. Call (720) 287-3710 today for a free quote, and ask about our free five-day trial.

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