Embrace of scribes for EHRs not universal

The jury is still out on whether using scribes to input data for doctors is the best way to resolve electronic health record workflow issues, according to a new Medscape report, which devotes two articles to the subject.

One article in the report calls the use of scribes a "godsend" and the way to alleviate physician dissatisfaction with the increased data entry and loss of face-to-face time with patients. Physicians, it says, are more productive, enjoy greater profits and achieve higher patient satisfaction scores.

But a companion article in the report by Art Caplan, Ph.D., at the Division of Medical Ethics of New York University Langone Medical Center, decried the use of scribes with EHRs, claiming that adding a third party into the mix is less efficient and creates additional a opportunities for errors in data entry.

"A third party is a Band-Aid on a serious problem," Caplan says. "We do not have enough time in medicine to pay attention and listen carefully when we are face to face with our patients. I believe we ought to fix that, rather than introducing another person, along with a new machine, into the doctor-patient relationship."

The articles mirror other recent reports about the use of scribes. The New York Times recently noted that the number of health care scribes has increased significantly, with about 10,000 working in the U.S. and growing demand for their services. However, the use of scribes may make it easier to document in the EHR services the doctor actually didn't perform and then inappropriately bill for them.

To learn more:
- here's the article in favor of scribes
- read the article opposing scribes