With the push toward electronic health records (EHRs) to meet the need for more detailed documentation, the time required to record patient information during a typical visit is skyrocketing. Time spent entering data rather than focusing on the patient increases the length of the visit, increases patient wait times, and reduces provider efficiency. One solution gaining popularity in the medical community is the use of medical scribes. Scribes are trained individuals dedicated to the collection and recording of patient and visit records.
Typically, a medical scribe follows the physician throughout the patient interaction recording the details required for accurate medical records. This frees the physician to concentrate on providing quality healthcare. But given the state of the healthcare industry today, the question at the forefront for most providers is one of cost effectiveness. Which begs the question:
What is a Physician’s Time Worth?
It’s difficult to formulate a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour value for a physician’s time. And that value may differ based on perspective. For instance, a patient may value a physician’s time based primarily on quality of care whereas the provider might base that value on profit margin. In either case, the more patients a physician sees in a given period of time, the greater their value.
For the patient, more appointments mean shorter wait times, easier access, and timely care. A medical scribe handles many of the duties that take up physician time both during, and between, patient visits. This frees up the physician to move quickly from patient to patient, keeping everyone on schedule, and reducing that time patients sit in the waiting room getting frustrated. It also allows for the scheduling of more appointments per day reducing the chance that patients with a non-emergent condition must wait weeks, or even months, to be seen.
As for the profitability of seeing more patients, the math is pretty clear. Every minute a physician spends recording patient data, they are not seeing patients and billing for their time. A scribe frees up that precious time and allows the administrative end of record keeping to be performed more efficiently, giving the physician time to see more patients and boost profits.
The Cost-Effective Solution
The bottom line is if a physician sees more patients, they earn more money, and that added revenue more than covers the cost of a medical scribe. If a physician sees just two additional patients in a day, the revenue generated pays the scribes average hourly rate. For a physician who sees 20 patients in a day, a time savings of just three minutes per patient adds an entire hour to see additional patients.
In truth, a medical scribe can save far more than just three minutes. When physicians can put down the technology required for record keeping they can put 100 percent of their focus on their patients.
Using a medical scribe means you have more face time with patients where you can give them your undivided attention strengthening the doctor/patient relationship. A strong relationship increases patient satisfaction and physician fulfillment. Physician burnout is a very real thing. Most physicians enjoy their patient relationships the most; it’s why many of them went into the field. But, they burn out due to the increased demand on their time for record keeping and regulations.
How cost effective can a medical scribe be for your practice?
The AMA has provided a simple online calculator to determine the savings you could see each year from using a medical scribe. Just enter known values such as the number of patients seen per day, the amount of time spent on record keeping, and the hourly cost of a medical scribe. You’ll see that using a medical scribe is a cost-effective way to increase efficiency and boost profits, all while improving patient satisfaction and avoiding physician burnout.
In addition, with a dedicated medical scribe, records are more accurate, and you get paid faster.
One of the most common delays to being paid for services is mistakes in information entered into your patient records, leading to mistakes in billing. What’s more, many physicians don't close their charts same day. A medical scribe, 100 percent focused on their task of accurately entering information into an EMR, will make fewer mistakes, getting you paid more quickly with fewer headaches.
Increased regulation and political uncertainty have the healthcare industry reeling. A medical scribe could be the solution to increase efficiency, boost profits, and keep your practice viable and thriving.