Orthopedic surgeon Devesh Ramnath used to see his patients by himself. Now, he recently told Dallas public radio station KERA, he’s always with “Connie,” a medical records scribe.
As more practices implement EHRs, more physicians, like Ramnath, are seeing the benefits of employing scribes.
Alex Geesbreght CEO of PhysAssist, a company that trains and provides medical scribes to health systems, told KERA that in 2008, his company had 35 scribes working in hospitals across the country. Now, there are nearly 1400.
Medical scribes are like court reporters, but for doctors. Ramnath's scribe, for instance, sits in a corner typing or speaking into a voice recorder, while Ramnath concentrates on the patient’s needs.
“I was really focused on just trying to get the information in and not really focusing on the patient anymore,” Ramnath told KERA, of his method of documentation prior to employing the scribe. “Also, I was spending an additional two to three hours every clinic just trying to get my medical records done.”
Enabling physicians to maintain that one-on-one personal interaction with patients is not the only benefit scribes provide.
Some providers are reporting meeting CPOE requirements using scribes who follow the physician around with either a tablet or mobile device. The scribe enters the orders in a planned/“hold” state, and later the physician logs in, reviews, and signs the orders prior to implementation. While orders are in this “hold” state they cannot be seen or acted upon by staff.
Physicians who use scribes may also have an easier time satisfying the various meaningful use requirements.
Many physicians continue to reject the idea of typing into a handheld device, because they feel they should be looking at and listening to the patient.
Scribes like “Connie” can help. While physicians who employ scribes can focus on the patient, scribes can focus on the technology.
So how much does a scribe cost? Perhaps less than you might think. Many make between $8 and $20 per hour, according to the KERA report. The real money is in the contract between the hospital or practice group and the company providing employment for the scribes. A hospital may pay $30 an hour to the company for a scribe skilled in transcription and CPT coding, while the scribe receives $20 an hour for the work.
Does your medical practice employ scribes? Why or why not?