In the EHR era, these documentation darlings are lending physicians a helping hand. But at what cost?

Rise of the Scribes By Juliann Schaeffer.

Increased documentation demands, whether due to meaningful use requirements or EMR implementations in general, continue to plague physicians and force hospital systems to scramble for solutions. Is there a remedy that satisfies both physicians and patients? Many hospitals view medical scribes as a possible tonic to the problem, especially in the emergency department (ED), where time is of the essence.

“Increased EMR documentation requirements result in physicians spending more time entering data and less time interacting directly with patients,” says Kathleen Myers, MD, FACEP, an emergency physician and founder and chief medical officer of Essia Health, a provider of EMR implementation specialists and medical scribes. “Physicians who use EMRs in the exam room spend about one-third of their time looking at the screen. In addition, documentation requirements typically mean longer work hours for physicians. For every 60 minutes of clinic time, physicians spend about 30 minutes charting, typically after hours on personal time.”

According to Myers, medical scribes enable physicians to focus on patient care and maintain quality of life while meeting EMR or other documentation requirements.
But do any efficiency and cost gains make up for the privacy concerns that patients may see from such an intrusion in their physician-patient relationship? Experts weigh in on the pros and cons of using medical scribes—and the realities of the health care system that make these professionals so in demand.

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