Medical scribes are not new fixtures at hospitals and clinics—they have been working with doctors taking notes on patients for years, if not decades—but what is new is the use of electronic pads and video conferencing to not only record data, but to also have a scribe’s presence at a medical facility miles from the scribe’s location.
Medical scribes are having an impact on the number of patients a doctor can see, says a 2008 study—Impact of Scribes on Performance Indicators in the Emergency Department—which reports “that through the use of a medical scribe, the potential (for doctors) to increase the number of patients seen per hour rose to 0.8.” It is likely that the use of scribes by hospitals and clinics will continue to grow, say stakeholders.
Among the companies fostering the growth of the use of doctors’ scribes is MEDVIKS Virtual Doctor Scribe program. Located in Houston, Texas, MEDVIKS provides access to its scribes over video conferencing systems on its “mobile scribe workstation,” said Dr. Fernando Alcocer Aguila, the assistant to the Virtual Doctor Scribe program’s medical director. Using that video conferencing system, MEDVIKS can provide medical scribes to emergency room (ER) doctors all over the United States, he said.
MOBILE SCRIBE WORKSTATION
The mobile scribe workstation has a portable computer and communications system that allows doctors to be in constant contact with the scribe through a secure wireless connection, Aguila said. The workstation consists of a Stinger Medical Slim Line hospital mobile cart; a laptop, webcam, USB speakerphone, swappable battery and battery charger; and headset for the doctor to communicate directly with the scribe.
MEDVIKS’ medical scribe services grew out of its experience providing videoconferencing language assistance for hospitals. All of MEDVIKS’ doctor’s scribes are medical school graduates, and speak English and Spanish, Aguila said. The scribes’ role is to provide on-demand, real-time charting for the hospital physician, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant.
Having virtual scribes record information and data during the examination—including patients’ histories and complaints, transcribing the physical exam, recording lab test results and preparing plans for follow-up care, will enable doctors to spend more time diagnosing patients, Aguila said. The scribes only record what the doctors relate, and the attending doctors later review the data, makes changes, and when satisfied with the documentation, approve the completed record.
MEDVIKS is not the only company offering scribe services. ScribeAmerica, of Lancaster, Calif., also offers medical scribe services, but it provides a more traditional approach of having the scribe at the site, as opposed to an off-site location. In addition, ScribeAmerica’s scribes complete the medical documentation on both paper or on electronic pads, whichever the client uses, said Dr. Luis Moreno, ScribeAmerica’s chief medical officer.
ScribeAmerica recruits its scribes from pre-medical college students and recent graduates waiting to enter medical school. “Working as a scribe gives them some experience in a medical setting,” Moreno said. While ScribeAmerica’s method might be somewhat different from MEDVIKS Virtual Doctor Scribe, the goal of freeing up a physician from spending time recording a patient’s examination is the same. “Doctors can spend more time examining patients and less time documenting, Moreno said.