Do scribes help or hinder EHR efficiency?

The demand for medical scribes is up as physicians look for ways to reduce their clerical load associated with EHR data entry, which is reducing patient care time, according to a December JAMA article.

There are 22 companies in the U.S. that train, certify and staff scribes. One such organization, the American College of Medical Scribe Specialists, estimates 20,000 scribes were employed by the end of 2014 and expects this number to grow to 100,000 scribes over the next six years, according to the article.

The function of scribes is still contentious. Some organizations, including the Joint Commission, believe scribes should be prohibited from entering orders into the EHR using CPOE, according to the report.

Yet physicians, who approve of EHRs in theory, are using scribes to abate their dissatisfaction with the technology, according to the authors of the report. Scribes can help physicians with EHR navigation, retrieval of diagnostic results, documentation and coding.

"If physicians and hospitals use medical scribes as an effective workaround, dissatisfaction with the state of technology likely will decline, potentially reducing collective market pressure on industry to evolve EHR usability," the authors write. "By reducing market demand and pressure on industry for needed improvements, the medical scribe industry (and inadvertently its customers) may contribute to an unintended, undesirable outcome: a deceleration and possibly stagnation in EHR technological improvement."


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