18 Sep, 2017

How Are Scribes Valuable In Healthcare?


A new study released by Annals of Family Medicine exposes how scribes are growing alongside tech tools in healthcare, such as electronic health records, resulting in an overall increase in patient and provider satisfaction.

“Scribes are increasingly being used in clinical practice despite a lack of high-quality evidence regarding their effects. Our objective was to evaluate the effect of medical scribes on physician satisfaction, patient satisfaction, and charting efficiency.” annfammed reports.

If you are not familiar with the role of a scribe, think of them as an assistant to physicians, that help improve patient care to be most effective. They carry out tasks such as gathering information for the patient’s visit or deliver efficient care when needed. They can retrieve test results, notes and other information that can be seen as relevant for patient care. Their goal is to make the doctor’s lives easier.

Scribes are becoming increasingly sought after from doctors, especially after it was reported earlier this year that doctors carry out the majority of their time using desktops and half their workday on EHR tasks, leaving only 27% of their time with patients.

The administrative burden that physicians deal with takes away from patient care, so physicians are turning toward scribes to pass on that tedious desktop work.

“In 2014, about 15,000 medical scribes were employed in the U.S., and that number is expected to reach 100,000 by 2020, according to the American College of Medical Scribe Specialists (ACMSS). The total number of companies providing scribe services as of April 2015 was at least 22, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.” Healthcare Dive reports. 

Let’s dive into the findings of the latest study, conducted by physicians at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

“Impact of Scribes on Physician Satisfaction, Patient Satisfaction, and Charting Efficiency: A Randomized Controlled Trial”

The goal of the study was to find out just how impactful scribes are in healthcare. Before these results can be revealed, it is important to understand just how much electronic health records are used by doctors. According to the study, more than “95% of US hospitals and 56% of office-based physicians have adopted EHRs.” 

That proves doctors are using EHR frequently, which means they are dealing with a ton of patient data. Since physicians are working with so much data, burnout rates are increasing, as administrative tasks increase. So, that is where scribes come in.

The study was a randomized and controlled trial involving physicians. The study was a year-long experiment to discover patient satisfaction differs among those using scribes and those who do not. Other measures such as overall satisfaction, face time with patients, time charting and chart quality were also among the factors measured in the study.

Over the year, physicians worked with scribes for one week and then without them for a year. The results concluded that overall effectiveness was achieved with scribes.

“Physicians who worked with a scribe had 10.75 the adjusted odds of expressing high satisfaction with their clinic that day, 3.71 the adjusted odds of having enough face time with patients, and 86.09 the adjusted odds of expressing high satisfaction with the amount of time they spent charting. ” Annfammed reports. 

Overall, physicians were happier with doctors when scribes were involved, and patient satisfaction did not decrease with scribes. However, less wait time, more face-to-face visits with doctors and patients, and efficient charts were reported.

Physicians were satisfied while using scribes because they felt as if they had more time to do other things, such as teach medical students, and residents, something that is hard to do when they are busy working EHRs.

The scribes being studied also performed administrative tasks efficiently, with higher quality than physicians.

All in all, scribes were reported to increase physician satisfaction. This proves that technology is bringing forward more responsibility for doctors, thus, a need for new roles in the healthcare sectors, in order to create an organized and effective environment for patients and doctors.

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