Want to lower physician burnout by 26%? Hire a scribe, study says

Hiring a remote scribe could soothe burnout rates among physicians by 26.8 percent, according to a study published in HealthCare.

Among the primary care physicians who were part of the study, 37 worked with a remote scribe and 68 did not. Four wellness metrics — burnout, a joyful workplace, a supportive work environment, and work pace and EHR stress — favored the physicians paired with a scribe, according to the study's results, which were published in December.

Before any scribes were assigned, 70.3 percent of the physicians reported experiencing burnout. With scribes, that figure fell to 51.4 percent. For those who did not have a scribe, feelings of burnout increased from 50 percent to 60.3 percent. 

"Scribes improve the way that people feel the flow of their work is going," Mark Micek, MD, the study's corresponding author and an associate clinical professor at Madison-based University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, told the American Medical Association in a Feb. 16 post. "It is relieving work from them, so I think it is easy for them to translate that into the sense that their burnout relative to their work is going down."

In their conclusion, the study's authors said not all physicians may benefit from a scribe because four scribe users left the study because of dissatisfaction and scribe turnover. Two physicians' scribe assignments were also delayed because of a struggle to find bilingual scribes. But, the researchers said, remote scribes led to "significant improvements in physician wellness and reductions in EHR use."

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