Medical scribe costs can be offset in one year, UChicago Medicine study finds

Medical scribes can help physicians treat more patients and schedule more return visits, which can offset the initial costs of employing a scribe in about a year or less, according to University of Chicago researchers. 

In a study published Oct. 6 in Annals of Internal Medicine, the research team did an economic evaluation for 30 specialties, plus physician assistants and nurse practitioners to analyze the value and costs medical scribes bring to a healthcare practice. 

With the analysis, the research assumed that every patient would be reimbursed by Medicare. Based on this, the team determined that a healthcare practice would need to average about 1.3 new patient visits per day to recover the cost of hiring a medical scribe one year after they start. The practice would also have to complete two or three return patient visits per day to support the offset in costs. 

Because most practices comprise Medicare, Medicaid and privately insured patients, it may be possible to reach that break-even point even sooner, said Neda Laiteerapong, MD, associate professor of medicine at University Chicago Medicine. 

"Scribes can help a practice add up to 20 percent more visits, which increases patient satisfaction," Dr. Laiteerapong said. "That is valuable to patients, who have increased access, and to providers who are able to do what they were trained to do, which is take care of patients, not paperwork."

More articles on EHRs: 
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VA considers moving to Cerner patient portal, racking up to $300M more in EHR project costs
VA sets date for initial Cerner EHR go-live: 5 things to know

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