Can the use of medical scribes – assistants who document patient encounters into electronic health records (EHRs) on behalf of physicians – decrease electronic health record documentation burden, improve productivity and patient communication, and enhance job satisfaction among primary care physicians?  A new study by Kaiser Permanente concludes that yes, they can.

The study published by the Journal of American Medical Association Network observed 18 primary care physicians over a 12-month period in which researchers enlisted scribes from a private scribe vendor that was relatively more expensive than scribes hired directly by primary care groups.  Scribes not only contributed to the reduction of the time primary care physicians spend on EHR documentation, but also improve patient interaction, bring significant boosts in productivity, and contribute to greater job satisfaction for physicians.

Physicians using scribes were also more likely to complete their EHR documentation by the next business day and spent significantly less time charting after-hours/on the weekends, which suggests that scribes improve work-life balance for physicians.

Here are the key findings of the year-long study:

  • 94% of physicians experienced greater job satisfaction when assisted by scribes
  • 88% of providers said they liked their scribe experience
  • 65% said they would be willing to take on additional patients with a full-time scribe
  • 89% of physicians reported a significant improvement in time spent interacting with patients when scribes were present
  • 85% of physicians with scribes spent the majority of their patient visits focused on patients compared to only 13% when scribes were not used  
  • 61.2% of patients believe scribes had a positive effect on their visit while only 2.4% believed they had negative effects

“Our results suggest that the use of scribes may be one strategy to mitigate the increasing EHR documentation burden among (primary care physicians), who are at the highest risk of burnout among physicians,” the authors wrote.

When physicians used medical scribes to offset the burden of EHR documentation, they contributed to more patient interaction and increased job satisfaction.  Not only did the physicians overwhelming like their experience with a scribe, but the majority of them said they would be willing to take on more patients with a full-time scribe.

Medical scribes are becoming the most effective way to combat EHR burdens, and evidence is growing that they not only offset EHR documentation but also provide a plethora of benefits for primary care physicians.  Interested in learning how your practice can benefit from hiring a medical scribe? Click here to request a free consultation or call us at 888-991-1773.


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