Guest post Kathleen Myers, MD, FACEP, is an emergency physician and founder/chief medical officer of Essia Health.
A few years ago, JAMA published a drawing by a 7-year-old girl after a recent visit to the doctor. It showed the girl on the examination table. Her older sister was seated nearby in a chair, as was her mother, who was cradling her baby sister. The doctor sat staring at the computer, his back to everyone – including the patient. The picture was carefully drawn with beautiful colors and details, and you couldn’t miss the message: Technology is making us physicians less human.
This powerful picture paints the role of the medical scribe in re-humanizing healthcare: If a medical scribe had been there, the doctor would have been able to focus 100 percent on the little girl while the scribe entered the necessary documentation into the computer.
Medical scribes specialize in charting physician-patient encounters in real-time in the electronic health record (EHR) during medical exams, freeing physicians from the data entry burden. They are typically bright, tech-savvy college students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in medicine and other healthcare disciplines. Many of them go onto medical school and become physicians themselves, having gained invaluable experience and insights into real-world medicine through scribing.
When I first started using an EHR, I realized that I didn’t want to be the doctor depicted in that drawing. And I was sure other doctors felt likewise. So I started a medical scribe program in my emergency department physician group as a way to integrate EHRs while re-humanizing healthcare – helping physicians maintain a more personal relationship with their patients, helping hospital customers ensure high-quality care for their patients and helping create a meaningful place for people to work. It wasn’t long before I realized that the model I started to solve our needs internally had significant potential in the marketplace, so I turned our program into a company that could serve the medical scribe needs of other healthcare providers.
In the nearly 10 years I’ve personally been using a scribe, I have observed how they are improving the practice, as well as the business, of healthcare. And our customers have confirmed these benefits time and time again.
First, patient satisfaction increases when they receive a physician’s full and focused attention. In fact, studies show improvement of 40 percent to 45 percent in Press Ganey patient satisfaction scores to overall levels 90 percent and higher when scribes are used.