August 7, 2019

Study: Assessing the use of scribes in healthcare setting

Patient/provider interaction not impeded by use of scribes, which also helps lessen burden on physicians

Primary care physicians and healthcare systems have increasingly enrolled the use of medical scribes to record medical data in real time. But what kind of impact does having these scribes working nearby have on the patient-provider experience?

In a paper co-authored by Lorraine R. Buis, Ph.D. in JMIR Medical Informatics, it was determined that the use of scribes does not negatively distract from that interaction.

As a 2017 Annals for Family Medicine report noted, physicians were found to spend approximately half of their day working with electronic health record (EHR) systems, Those findings also noted nearly one-quarter of each physician’s day was spent focusing on clerical tasks. 

The use of EHR systems provides the ability to input information on each patient. However, a great amount of time is spent on inputting data into the EHR system. That has led to the use of scribes, who generally serve as unlicensed paraprofessionals, to input data electronically. Occasionally, medical assistants or nurses handle the role of a scribe.

For this study, the interaction of approximately 30 patients with their health care providers was video recorded and analyzed. Around half of these encounters included the presence of scribes, while half were without scribes present.

“Overall, the survey results revealed that patients across both arms reported very high satisfaction of communication with their physician, their physician’s use of the EHR, and their care, with very little variability,” the study noted. “Video recording analysis supported patient survey data by demonstrating high measures of communication among physicians in both scribed and nonscribed encounters. Furthermore, video recordings revealed that the presence of scribes had very little effect on the clinical encounter.”

The survey revealed the presence of scribes as an acceptable element of clinical encounters. However, this also was seen to have another benefit.

“Their potential to reduce documentation-related burden on physicians is valuable,” the study deduced.

Buis serves as an Assistant Professor, Family Medicine and Assistant Professor of Information, School of Information, University of Michigan. She co-authored this study with Shivang U. Danak, M.D., Melissa A. Plegue, M.A., and Reema Kadri, M.L.I.S., Department of Family Medicine, University of Michigan; and Alexander Duthler, PharmD, and Anne Yoo, Pharm D, B.C.P.S., College of Pharmacy, University of Michigan.

Other co-authors include former University of Michigan Department of Family Medicine faculty Timothy C. Guetterman, Ph.D. (Creighton University); and Heather L. Holmstrom, M.D. (University of Colorado).