Practice Management

Hospitalist groups explore use of medical scribes


 

Studying the benefits

Andrew Friedson, PhD, a health care economist at the University of Colorado in Denver, recently conducted a 9-month randomized experiment in three hospital emergency rooms in the Denver area to determine the effects of scribes on measures of emergency physician productivity.5 He found that scribes reduced patient wait times in the emergency department by about 13 minutes per patient, while greatly decreasing the amount of time physicians spent after a shift completing their charting, which thus lowered overtime costs for ED physicians.

Dr. Andrew Friedson, health care economist at the University of Colorado Denver

Dr. Andrew Friedson

“This is one of the first times medical scribes have been studied with a randomized, controlled trial,” Dr. Friedson said. “I tracked the amount of overtime, patient waiting, and charge capture for each encounter. These were hospitals where the emergency doctors weren’t allowed to go home until their charting was done.” He discovered that there was a large drop in the time between when patients arrived at the ED and when a decision was made regarding whether to admit them. Additionally, charge capture increased significantly, and physicians had more time to perform medical procedures. Dr. Friedson believes that his findings hold implications for other settings and medical groups, including hospital medicine. To the extent that scribes free up hospitalists to perform tasks other than charting, they should provide an efficiency benefit.

So why hasn’t the medical scribe caught on in a bigger way for hospitalists, compared with ED physicians? For Dr. Corvini, the ED is an obvious, high-pressure, high-volume setting where the cost of the scribe can be easily recouped. “That doesn’t exist in such an obvious fashion in hospital medicine, except where high-volume admissions are concentrated in a single physician’s caseload,” he said. Not all hospitalist groups will fit that model. Some may divide admissions between hospitalists on a shift, and others may not be large enough to experience significant caseload pressures.

“EDs are obviously time pressured, and once scribes demonstrate the ability to produce documentation in a high-quality fashion, they are quickly accepted. In hospital medicine, the time pressures are different – not necessarily less, but different,” Dr. Corvini said. There are also differences in physician responsibilities between the ED and hospital medicine, as well as in physicians’ willingness to let go of documentation responsibilities. “My prediction, if the scribe test is rolled out successfully in TeamHealth, with measurable benefits, it will be adopted in other settings where it fits.”

References

1. Shanafelt TD et al. Relationship between clerical burden and characteristics of the electronic environment with physician burnout and professional satisfaction. Mayo Clin Proc. 2016 Jul;91(7):836-48.

2. Collins TR. Use of medical scribes spurs debate about costs, difficulties of electronic health records. The Hospitalist; 2015 Oct.

3. Gellert GA et al. The rise of the medical scribe industry: Implications for the advancement of electronic health records. JAMA; 2015;313(13):1315-6.

4. Beresford L. Electronic Health Records Key Driver of Physician Burnout. The Hospitalist; 2015 Dec.

5. Friedson AI. Medical scribes as an input in healthcare production: Evidence from a randomized experiment. Am J Health Econ. 2017 Oct 2. doi: /10.1162/ajhe_a_00103.

Pages

Next Article:

   Comments ()