Emergency Medical Records (EMR) allow a practice to accurately track data, easily identify the needs of existing patients, and monitor a patient’s reaction to treatments. Their ability to help improve patient care is why 80 percent of physicians now use them. Yet, EMR’s aren’t without their drawbacks. A 2014 Technology Survey, sponsored by Kareo, reported that 33 percent of physicians complained about problems with workflow due to EMRs, and 60 percent said they’ve yet to see a return on investment. The primary challenges revolve around data entry and taking physicians and clinicians away from the most fulfilling part of their job: time focused on patients. This sort of administrative work is the leading cause of physician burnout [Link to our post on Physician Burnout], but no one could, with good conscience, advocate for eliminating EMR’s. Despite the painful administrative burden, their benefits far outweigh the draw backs.
Using an EMR with Efficiency
The one finite resource we all have is time, and we can’t make more of it. We can, however, become more efficient, and this is where medical scribes can ease the pain of necessary administrative work EMRs demand. As we’ve mentioned, the time clinicians spend time entering data during a patient visit takes their attention away from the patient. A scribe can free up a physician by taking over the task of capturing information, and they can enter it into an EMR. A medical scribe can record detailed information during a patient visit, both handwritten or electronic, following the instruction of the physician or clinician. Not only can they enter information into the EMR, but they can also respond to provider messages and locate information like test results and other details from the patient history. Scribes also research based on instruction from the provider, and become the right-administrative-hand of the clinician.
Define the Role of the Scribe
Each practice will have its own unique needs and the scribe’s role will adapt accordingly. A provider can choose a clinical assistant from their staff, but that assistant will be stretched to fulfill their regular role while acting as a scribe. For that reason, and because EMR security rights are not the same for a clinician and a scribe (a scribe has the same security rights as the practice, where a clinical assistant’s rights are more limited), it is recommended that a practice use a trained medical scribe.
Best Practices for Scribes on Your EMR
For security reasons, the role of the scribe must be clearly outlined and communicated. A specific job description and clear communication of the scribe’s role will help eliminate confusion. There is, of course, an additional cost when hiring a scribe; most work on an hourly rate. That can be offset by the provider’s ability to see more patients and, if a practice is large, the expense can be shared. A major offset can be seen in higher coding as well as more accurate billing driving faster reimbursement.
The Benefit of Time
The reduction in administrative work that a medical scribe provides frees up the provider to focus on their patient, provide a higher level of service, and see more patients. Patient and provider satisfaction naturally increases. Everyone in the medical field is well aware of the drag that increased regulations and required documentation has placed on providers. Using a scribe can alleviate the responsibility of clerical duties, in turn elevating morale and reducing the stress that EMRs have laid on providers. The use of EMRs or EHRs have become the standard in today’s medical practice, and that won’t change. Technology has invaded every aspect of our lives, and its intrusion into the medical field has delivered many benefits, but it has also made the patient feel that their provider is often more focused on a computer screen than on them. Multi-tasking doesn’t help. Employing a scribe allows the physician to focus solely on the patient, and, with the scribe focused on collecting accurate information, documentation is much more accurate. This improved accuracy can also translate to quicker reimbursements. If you’ve never used a medical scribe and you’re struggling with the clerical challenges of EMRs, they may be the answer to get you back to doing the work you love, with better focus and data accuracy. Photo credit: Darren W 343/365 – 10 December: Paperwork build up via photopin (license)