December 8, 2020

Is a Machine Named ‘Samantha’ Going to Take Your Medical Scribing Job?

The Savvy Premed

By: Savvy Pre-Med Staff

We have unmanned food trucks that 3D-print pizzas for pick-up. We have robotic security guards that tread back and forth, patrolling grocery stores. We have self-driving taxis that can transport you wherever you want to go. 

As plastic, steel, and carefully crafted artificial intelligence (AI) continue to steal jobs and make professions obsolete, modern life can feel a bit like a Black Mirror episode.

And now, the medical scribing profession is the next job being threatened by machines and AI.

Whether you’re a current scribe, a hopeful scribe, or an aspiring physician who will eventually work alongside scribes, it’s important to consider the future of this profession (and other ‘nonessential’ medical staff), especially in our current COVID-19 era and in the coming age of telemedicine. 

Here’s what you need to know:

Is a Machine Named 'Samantha' Going to Take Your Medical Scribing Job?

Recently, we had a conversation with one of our former students, who regaled us with a story about his scribing experience:

“I was so excited to be interviewed for a job as the personal scribe to the CEO of a multi-specialty physician group. It was a big deal for me. I felt confident when I was preparing; I had prior scribing experience and boasted an average typing speed of 100 WPM. Surely, I was qualified for the role.

But days before the interview, the scribe manager emailed me saying that they may or may not cancel my interview. I was told the doctor was heavily considering ‘Samantha.’ Not knowing that Samantha was a ‘what’ and not a ‘who,’ I wished them well and told them that I'd still love to be considered.

The scribe manager clarified and told me about Samantha. 

‘Samantha is a program that allows for automated EHR documentation. The physician is considering this for many reasons: it'd save him money from paying a physical scribe, it has a microphone that can translate spoken words into text, and it saves him from having to replace a scribe after however many months.’

While Samantha beat me in all these areas, I ultimately got the job because my doctor wanted someone to mentor. Samantha was ‘too perfect’ and could not give him that role. My doctor told me about his previous scribes and the relationships he's built with them. He realized that hiring an AI would prevent him from continuing to teach the next generation of physicians. For him, this is something that could not be compromised.”

Our student was lucky, but we’re not sure you can bank on other physicians having such a penchant for mentorship and human bonding.

If using AI is cheaper, and perhaps less susceptible to errors, why wouldn’t a doctor or hospital want to use AI for scribing, especially with telemedicine on the rise?

What exactly is Samantha?

Samantha stands for “Semi-AutonoMous Adaptive Note Transcription Heuristic Algorithm.”

Samantha is a piece of technology created by the company NoteSwift; it’s an efficient AI-powered clinical documentation tool to help doctors with charting.

Samantha can digest the doctor's narrative – whether dictated or typed – and use AI to parse the information, detect structured data, assign necessary codes, and prepare orders and electronic prescriptions for physician sign-off.

The tool also puts data into the correct fields of the electronic health record (EHR), saving the clinician eight hours per week and helping ensure accuracy.

And it all operates from a single screen, with prices ranging from $49 to $99 per month per provider (much cheaper than a human scribe’s monthly salary).  

How prevalent and versatile is Samantha?

In general, the use of virtual assistants is on the rise.

Global Market Insights released a report examining the use of virtual assistants starting in 2016 and projecting their rise through 2024. The researchers determined that the global market size for virtual assistants would expand annually at a rate of 34.9%.

More industries are adopting technology to increase efficiency, especially when it comes to the entry and processing of information. And healthcare is increasingly  embracing voice recognition technology, which can be accessed on a variety of handheld devices like smartphones and tablets.

In 2018, NoteSwift announced its partnership with athenahealth's More Disruption Please program, thereby making Samantha available to the company's 106,000 physicians via the athenahealth marketplace.

Samantha currently integrates with Allscripts Professional, and NoteSwift plans to continue adding more EHRs in the future. 

Samantha is available with or without built-in speech recognition and supports most popular medical speech recognition products. Samantha can also be used without dictation and works with the EHR in local, cloud, or on-premises hosted RDP or Citrix environments.

What are Samantha’s major benefits for providers?

For starters, you can watch this promotional video, which admittedly feels a little eerie and creepy:

But here’s a quick breakdown of the benefits:

  • Alleviates physician burnout
  • Increases facetime with patients
  • Creates the entire patient note from a single screen with just a few clicks
  • Increases the accuracy of entering patient documentation into the EHR
  • Saves physicians six to eight hours on average each week
  • Automatically adds billing codes
  • Enters information as structured, discrete data so it can be searched and reported in support of population health initiatives
  • Matches dictated terms with the proper equivalents in the EHR
  • Detects potential conflicts or ambiguous terms
  • Automatically prompts the user to review and correct conflicts
  • Matches coding information to submit claims, meaning that medical offices receive insurance reimbursements in a more timely fashion
  • Integrates with different EHRs 
  • Learns from the provider and improves over time

Geez, Samantha sure sounds tough to compete with...

Do doctors actually like using Samantha?

The CEO of NoteSwift, Wayne Crandall, certainly thinks so: 

“According to many studies, physicians are burning out in record numbers across our country, largely due to the burden of administration and EHR entry. With Samantha, our goal is to support providers, reduce physician burnout, and ultimately help physicians offer better care to patients by helping them spend less time on computers and more facetime with their patients.”

But some physicians have gone on record to endorse Samantha as well:

“Samantha is a true game-changer and will disrupt the EHR charting process. I'm able to complete my patient notes much faster and with greater accuracy. The fact that I don't have to jump from screen to screen and click 100 times has reduced the anxiety that used to accompany patient note entry.”

- Dr. Chris Russell, neurologist at Peachtree Neurological Clinic and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta

“I love the look and ease of the new Samantha OnePage. Being able to see and edit the contents of our templates, I now can use Samantha for my returning patients as well as new patients. This is a major upgrade and is saving me many hours!”

- Dr. Rathkopf of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Center of Alaska

What does this mean for pre-meds? Is scribing still a worthwhile experience to pursue?

We have some good news!

A recent study in the Journal of Informatics in Health and Biomedicine found that digital scribes are not yet sufficient in replacing human ones.

According to the study, the number of medical scribes employed by US hospitals has been doubling annually since 2014. This number could reach 100,000 in 2020.

In a literature review of 65 studies that described how scribes were trained, certified, or evaluated, the researchers concluded that although digital scribes are helpful, there are certain functions that simply need to be done by a person:

“We found that there is significant variation in scribe expectations and responsibilities across healthcare organizations; scribes also frequently adapt their work based on the provider’s style and preferences. Further, a scribe’s job extends far beyond capturing conversation in the exam room; they also actively interact with patients and the care team and integrate data from other sources such as prior charts and lab test results.”

Here are some other highlights of the Human vs. Machine Debate:

  • Human scribes can adapt to the process of training, certifying, and managing medical scribes
  • Some health systems have different documentation styles or expectations that cannot be followed by digital scribes
  • Digital scribes are not capable of interacting with the provider, the care team, or the patients; a health system may have to hire an assistant to fulfill the other tasks of the human scribe
  • While most patients are generally comfortable with a human scribe in the room, privacy and confidentiality issues may arise if patients know all words are being digitally transcribed

In summation, although a well-designed EHR scribe like Samantha possesses the ability to decrease clinician burnout and costs, it cannot replicate all benefits that a human scribe brings: 

“Based on the findings, we conclude that medical scribes perform complex and delicate work that is much beyond simply transcribing conversations taking place in the exam room. We believe that speech-based technologies provide promising prospects for reducing the burden of clinical documentation. However, to completely substitute the role played by human scribes, a much more comprehensive solution is needed.”

So, for now, we think you’re still safe to seek out those scribing experiences as a way to accumulate clinical hours and gain meaningful exposure to the field! 

Have any questions about the future of medical scribing? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll respond to you personally!

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