Time-consuming EHR documentation is a burden that is consistently found to be linked to increased physician documentation workload, and, in turn, physician burnout. Could the use of medical scribes alleviate that burden for physicians, improve productivity and patient communication, and enhance job satisfaction among physicians. A study published this month in JAMA Internal Medicine aimed to find out the answer to that question, and their conclusion is a resounding yes.
The 12-month crossover study randomly assigned eighteen primary care physicians to start the first three-month period of the study with or without scribes, and then had alternated exposure to scribes every three months over the course of the year. At the end of each study period, physicians completed a survey. Meanwhile, the researchers also surveyed patients of participating primary care physicians after scribed clinic visits.
Findings indicated that compared with periods that were not scribed, scribed periods were linked to less self-reported after-hours EHR documentation by physicians (<1 hour per day). Scribed physicians also self-reported that they spent more than 75% of the visit interacting with the patient and less than 25% of the visit on a computer. Patients also reported encouragingly in regards to the presence of medical scribes, with 61% of surveyed patients saying that scribes had a positive bearing on their visits and only 2.4% of them indicating a negative bearing.
While there is no easy cure-all for burnout, the results of this study certainly indicate that there are ways to help lessen the burdens thrust upon physicians by EHRs, and one of those is the utilization of medical scribes.
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