Even scribes have gone virtual: How Massachusetts General is using tech to help physicians focus on patients

Physicians at Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital have begun using virtual scribes and voice recognition software when completing patient visits, allowing them to avoid tedious note taking and instead focus on the patients, according to the Boston Globe.

Amy Wheeler, MD, chief of adult medicine at Massachusetts General's clinic in Revere, is among the physicians who have seen the benefits to using virtual scribes. Dr. Wheeler says she has been able to condense 10 hours of note taking per day into a quick 45 minutes.

Instead of clicking through an EMR or jotting down notes, Dr. Wheeler records the patient visits. Then she sends the recording to trained physicians in Mumbai, India, who listen to the recording and type up a summary.

Massachusetts General has hired around 200 scribes to work in its clinics. These scribes type notes in the exam room while the physician is present. Along with the present scribes, more than 130 physicians in 12 specialties are using virtual scribes.

"What we're trying to get our doctors back to is face-to-face with their patients, where the technology fades into the background, but then comes forward to support us when we need it," David Ting, MD, chief medical information officer at Massachusetts General Physicians Organization, told the Boston Globe.

Massachusetts General has teamed up with Scribble to leverage the virtual scribes. Around 1,000 clinics in the U.S. use the India-based company, which adds nearly 100 users a month. These virtual scribes have medical degrees and are trained to take notes similar to U.S. physicians, reports the Boston Globe.

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