July 04, 2017
Scribe Update

Since the advent of the EHR, medical scribes have been the helping hand to the overworked physician, fed-up with clerical duties that take away precious time from interacting with patients. The perks of using medical scribes in the healthcare setting have been mentioned time and time again. Studies have shown that with the help of medical scribes, healthcare practices can increase productivity and boost revenue by alleviating the clerical burdens of EHR navigation and documentation, thus giving healthcare providers more space and time to see more patients and focus on medical treatment. All of this, in turn, helps to prevent physician burnout, increases both patient and physician satisfaction, and helps to improve the patient-doctor relationship. In the end, if things are efficiently coordinated, the work of the scribe can help to streamline the billing cycle, and keep the momentum of the revenue cycle running at a pace that matches the workload.

In addition to the core benefits of medical scribe use in the healthcare setting, here are a few more points to note about medical scribes, what they can do, and how they are able to do it:

Assist not just document

Although the main role of medical scribes is to accurately document patient exams, it is not the only way in which they help to increase workflow efficiency. Scribes are not just documenters; they can also assist the physician with scheduling reminders, navigating the EHR to find necessary patient information, and arranging communication between different departments on behalf of the physician. In this way, the medical scribe is an active participant in healthcare events whose contributions can have an effect in the long-term (e.g. documentation for post-acute care).

Many options to accommodate patient comfort and privacy

Although many experiences from patients and physicians have noted improvements to the patient-doctor relationship due to the increased focus on patient care and less time at the computer, some still critique the presence of scribes as an intrusion into patient comfort and/or privacy. There are, however, ways to work around some of these aspects by offering different options through which scribes can perform their duties. This can include verbal dictation to the scribe that is present in another room, or telescribing, which involves remote recording through a built-in microphone in the examination room.

Other regulatory details to note

Most importantly, the documented work of the medical scribe must be verified by the practicing physician and signed off by both physician and scribe. Documentation of what was performed by scribe and physician for the entire patient examination must be clearly stated in the EHR. Updating the EHR template to include relevant information about physician and scribes, mandated by CMS, is important, especially in the case of a CMS audit, but also as a means to accurately record who contributed to what.