Training Medical Practice Staff to Serve as Scribes

January 8, 2015

Utilizing a scribe does not necessarily mean your practice needs to go out and a hire a new staff member who has been trained specifically for that role.

As more practices implement EHRs, more are using medical scribes who enter information into the system during patient visits. According to Physicians Practice's 2014 Technology Survey, Sponsored by Kareo, nearly 21 percent of practices are using them.

Jeffery Daigrepont, senior vice president of the Coker Group, a healthcare consulting firm, says these practices are on to something, especially if they are specialty practices struggling to get back up to speed post-EHR implementation.

For instance, ophthalmologists who use a variety of equipment and devices while examining patients might find the extra hands a scribe provides useful. "The doctor is actually giving verbal commands of the clinical decisions and the scribe is keying it in as the doctor is seeing patients," says Daigrepont.

Utilizing a scribe does not necessarily mean your practice needs to go out and a hire a new staff member who has been trained specifically for that role. Instead, Daigrepont recommends training one of your more established medical assistants or nurses to take on scribing duties. That way, the scribe is familiar with the physician from the get-go, and he already knows the typical protocols, treatment plans, and so on. "They really know how to anticipate what to expect and they know a lot of the questions to ask," says Daigrepont, adding that an ideal scribe is someone the physician knows well, trusts, and has full confidence in.

When training a staff member to take on the roll of scribe, Daigrepont recommends using scenarios. For instance, have another staff member pose as a patient, and ask the scribe to document a fake patient encounter.

Also, set down firm guidelines regarding what the scribe is allowed to do and document in the EHR, says Daigrepont. "... If you're going to use the scribe, it's important to point out that the doctor is ultimately responsible for everything that's put in [the record], including all the way down to the charge capturing and the clinical decision making."

Keep in mind that with the right technology, your patients might also be able to act as scribes. For instance, if your practice implements a patient portal that is integrated with your EHR, information that patients enter into the portal can be seamlessly transferred into the system.