EHR scribes improve patient, physician satisfaction

Medical schools are working to help new physicians use electronic records and devices in their practices without losing their personal touch with patients, FierceHealthIT reported earlier this week. An increasingly popular alternative to the juggling act, however, particularly among more seasoned physicians, is to get back to focusing exclusively on the patient by leaving EMR completion up to a scribe.

While FiercePracticeManagement previously shared reports on the cost-benefit for facilities using scribes, a recently completed pilot program in Northern California quantifies scribes' impact on patients, reported. In particular, the four-month study involving six community clinics revealed that 36 percent of patients said they were "more satisfied" with their office visit.

"They're so happy the doctor can look at them while the scribe can type," Ann Murphy, who supervises Shasta Community Health Center's scribe project, told HealthyCal.

In addition, nine out of 10 patients participating in the project said they were not concerned about another person being in the room during their medical visits. The most common circumstance a scribe is asked to leave, the article noted, is during a well-woman exam. However, physicians and scribes reported that the presence of scribes can not only help keep physicians calm during emotionally charged encounters, but it also lead patients to share more personal or sensitive information with their physicians.

While some physicians resist giving up control of their records to scribes, others welcome the help with open arms. "Having a scribe is the difference between feeling hopeless and overwhelmed and feeling like it's a doable job and very satisfying," one physician told HealthyCal.

Although scribes earn about $8 to $12 an hour, the work can be appealing to medical students looking for real-world exposure to the daily life as a physician. And at least one school, Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan, has teamed up with local healthcare providers to offer pre-med students credits for working as scribes, or "physician facilitators," as such real-time transcriptionists are sometimes called, the Midland Daily News reported.

"Being a scribe is more than volunteering or a job shadow," Kristina Brookshire, a lead physician facilitator, told the newspaper. Such exposure, the article noted, can help students decide if medicine is right for them before committing to medical school.

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