The other day, after a month of sore throat and sinus problems and three useless primary care visits , I hit the emergency department. It was midnight or so, and the place was very quiet for a decent-sized community hospital. I wasn’t sure what to expect.
When the doctor came in to check me out, I was pleasantly surprised to see another man, entering with the doctor, introduced as the “scribe.” I was happy because I think the scribe model works; it allows doctors to focus on patients while making sure well-structured data ends up in the EMR.
And having structured documentation in place is increasingly looking like a good thing. According to a study published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, researchers concluded that doctors who have an EMR available but dictate patient notes provide a lower quality of care than physicians do who use structured documentation.
For someone who was performing such an important task, our scribe was nearly invisible. Without a word, he stepped in front of a wall-hung monitor and began taking notes as I discussed my issues. (In other words, if people fear that a scribe would be intrusive, they’re probably wrong.)
The doctor and I chatted and made eye contact, and the scribe captured the essence of our conversation. The doctor was in and out within 5 minutes, but somehow, I felt confident that we — doctor, scribe and me — had gotten the job of documenting my concerns done properly.
Folks, I have no idea what they paid the young-ish man who scribed for my doctor. But as both a patient and a professional researcher, I’m heartily in favor of the investment. Anything that seems to both improve quality and improve perceptions of quality has got to be worth it.