Medical scribes help cut doctors' EHR workload

Physicians who dread having to document patient care into electronic health records (EHRs) have created a fast-growing job market for medical scribes, according to a STAT report.

Medical scribes, many of them pre-med college students, have proliferated in hospitals and clinics across the country, trailing doctors as they check boxes and type notes into EHRs, the report said. The number of medical scribes in the country has grown from about 7,000 in 2014 to nearly 17,000 today, according to the American College of Medical Scribe Specialists.

Laura Burke, M.D., an emergency department (ED) physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, uses a medical scribe, taking money out of her own paycheck to pay for the scribe's wages and overhead to the company that provides the service, according to STAT. Burke told the publication that using a scribe cuts her charting workload in half. She said in the fast-faced ED she had trouble getting her notes done and although she has to check and edit the scribe's entries into the EHR, it is saving her time to spend with her two sons.

Scribes also solve a common complaint for doctors, allowing them to pay more attention to patients. "I just don't like being at a computer when I'm in the room with patients. I'd rather be talking with patients," Burke said.

Not a lot of research has been done on the use of scribes, but a few studies have found they can improve a doctors' productivity and satisfaction. "It generally improves my happiness at work," Burke said. "I feel like I can just think about the patients, and not just think about the charting part of it."

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