Medical scribes make docs more efficient, productive

Medical scribes could allow doctors to spend more time treating and interacting with patients and less time filling out forms, scheduling patients, searching for data and coordinating care, according to an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

Since he started using scribes two years ago, Alan J. Bank, M.D., director of research at the United Heart & Vascular Clinic of Allina Health in St. Paul, Minn. and associate professor of cardiology at the University of Minnesota, stays on schedule and sees 30 percent more patients a day than colleagues without scribes, Bank wrote.

The scribes, typically medical students who plan to enter the healthcare profession, review patients' medical records, summarize the patients' previous clinic visits and hospitalizations, find and copy relevant test results, document physician findings and treatment recommendations, enter billing codes and schedule future visits, according to the piece.

Physician productivity (measured in hours) increased more than 50 percent when doctors used a scribe, and revenue also increased, according to a study Banks cites that compared visits to his cardiology clinic. Doctors spent 30 percent less time in each patient's room, but the direct interaction with the patient increased significantly and physician-patient interaction improved.

"Everybody wins with this system. The patients win. They are seen on time, access to their physician is increased, and they get more attention at each visit," Bank wrote. "The physician wins by performing less paperwork, finishing work on time, and spending more time doing what he or she is trained to do."

The scribes also get a hands-on education about the healthcare industry, and at $10 to $25 an hour, they provide an inexpensive solution to physicians' time management issues, Bank said.

Not everyone agrees, however. Art Caplan, Ph.D., of New York University Langone Medical Center's Division of Medical Ethics, said adding a third party into the mix is less efficient and creates additional opportunities for data entry errors, FierceEMR previously reported.

To  learn more:
- here's the WSJ article
- read the study abstract