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Separating Scribe Fact From Fiction

Recently, there’s been a lot of misinformation floating around about medical scribes. It’s understandable that physicians and hospitals may be wary of the idea if they’ve never worked with scribes. A lot of ideas for the “next best thing” in medicine are touted at seemingly every turn, it’s true. However, those fears should be allayed by the facts. Here’s a look at some of the key areas of concern that have been raised recently.

Scribes boost the bottom line

As we recently detailed, using scribes can add $2500–$12,000 per patient in direct and indirect revenue to your practice or facility, depending on the specialty. That’s because improved detail of notes in the patient record result in better charge capture and fewer denials through documented defense of each claim — all of which significantly boosts revenues. In addition, physicians can see approximately 5 to 8 more patients each day when scribes are used to create the patient record during the visit. Even for a primary care physician, this can mean an extra $105,000 a year for the practice. Rather than being a line-item expense, medical scribes are actually a boost to the bottom line for hospitals.

Scribes make patient encounters more meaningful

Scribes help physicians see more patients, in part by reducing the amount each patient encounter lasts. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the time that’s cut from the visit is the time the physician would have spent on taking notes, or having the patient repeat what was just said so that the physician could record the information accurately. Although it’s time spent “face-to-face” with the patient, it’s not exactly quality face time, is it? One study found that physicians spend 9 minutes less per average visit — but an average of 5 minutes more interacting with patients directly. Physicians are able to listen and respond more thoroughly, and patients go away happier with their care; it’s a win-win. Take it from an actual patient experience:

“In my one scribe-assisted visit, the doctor looked me in the eye as we talked. That helped me trust her, even though we had just met. Our face-to-face conversation sure beat visits I’ve had with my primary-care doctor. She spends most of our time together pecking away at the computer, her back facing mine.”

Patients feel comfortable with a scribe in the room

Higher levels of patient satisfaction might explain why most patients — 80%, in fact — feel comfortable with a scribe in the room. But for the 1 patient in 5 who isn’t comfortable, the solution is a simple one: communication, the very thing that scribes free physicians to do. When entering the room for the patient visit, the physician should explain who the scribe is, why he or she is there, and reassure that the scribe is certified and current with American College of Medical Scribe Specialists (ACMSS) guidelines. ACMSS training ensures that scribes understand their duties and responsibilities with respect to HIPAA and patient privacy, and you shouldn’t accept scribes without this qualification. It’s not only a reassurance for your hospital or practice, but also for the patient.

It’s a fact that scribes don’t make the medical decisions that save lives — but, equally, they can enhance the fiscal health of hospitals and practices, improve the working lives of doctors, and enhance patient satisfaction.

Michael Murphy, MD
Dr. Michael Murphy is co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of ScribeAmerica, LLC. He co-founded ScribeAmerica in 2004, and it is now the country’s largest and most successful medical scribe company with a staff exceeding 7200 employees operating in over 46 states nationwide. Today, ScribeAmerica is the recognized leader of the medical scribe industry and remains at the forefront of professional scribe education, training, and program management nationally. Dr. Murphy served as an Army Ranger for the 1st Ranger Battalion in Savannah, Georgia, which allowed him to gain various leadership skills along with the ability to develop standard operating procedures. He applies this to his daily duties for ScribeAmerica. Dr. Murphy has been a leader on multiple issues including scribe policy, hospital throughput, electronic medical record implementation and optimization of provider to patient ratios. His goals are to continue making all medical practice locations an environment built for an exceptional patient experience that allows providers to focus solely on patient care. Dr. Murphy received his Doctor of Medicine from St. George's University and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark. He has co-authored one textbook and is involved in 3 peer review articles.
Posted In: Best Of, General, Quality, Efficiency, Utilization On: Wednesday, 7 October, 2015


  • Javier - December 2, 2015

    It’s not just in the mental heatlh field. Nurses are routinely expected to refer to “patients” as “clients” and for the same “empowerment” reasons. Interestingly, no one has asked the patients what they would like to be called – it’s just assumed they would prefer “client”. In my experience they don’t. Client evokes too much of a business atmosphere and they prefer a term which denotes a more caring relationship – patient.


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