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Medical Scribes: Another Important Component of Virtual Care

Virtual care. It’s a topic thrust into the healthcare limelight at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, approximately 60 percent of patients experienced their first virtual visit during the pandemic.

Although telehealth is probably the most recognized type of virtual care — it has increased at levels 38X higher than before the pandemic — there are multiple other technologies included in this category. A virtual care environment might include remote patient monitoring, video conferencing and mHealth (mobile health) or a combination of these capabilities. These solutions enable virtual health, which is defined as the use of enabling technology to deliver health services in a way that is independent of time or location.

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Virtual care is popular among both patients and healthcare providers. Research shows that between 40 and 60 percent of patients express interest in a set of broader virtual health solutions, such as a “digital front door” or lower-cost virtual-first health plan. Roughly 90 percent of physicians believe it’s beneficial in terms of increased access, communication and satisfaction.

The Value of Virtual Medical Scribes

Not always included in the category of virtual care — but a vital component nonetheless — is the utilization of medical scribes. Unlike medical transcriptionists, whose role it is to type exactly what a physician dictates, scribes often have multiple responsibilities, including:

  • Retrieving, maintaining and updating documents in an EHR
  • Preparing for a patient visit by quickly accessing treatment records
  • Organizing patient histories
  • Authenticating records
  • Recording patient comments
  • Noting patient or treatment progress
  • nputting physician orders
  • Arranging patient tests and appointments
  • Assisting with assigning diagnoses and billing
  • Responding to various messages as directed by the provider
  • Researching information requested by the provider
  • Maintaining medication listings

Nearly 20 percent of U.S. physicians employ medical scribes. Why? Because these trained professionals are able to aid doctors by enhancing clinical documentation and reducing their administrative burden to alleviate burnout.

A scribe can be found in multiple settings. In addition to physician practices, some are employed hospitals, emergency departments, long-term care facilities, long-term acute care hospitals, public health clinics and ambulatory care centers.

Virtual scribes don’t even have to physically be in the office. A report by KLAS found that provider organizations that employed virtual scribes reported decreased EHR documentation time and improved clinician satisfaction.

Understanding the Advantages of Utilizing a Virtual Scribe

Utilizing the services of a virtual scribe has the potential to boost medical group revenue. When physicians collaborate with these assistants, they have an increased capability to increase patient volume. This is especially important as physician practices continue to recover from revenue lost during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we mentioned in a previous blog, three key areas in which scribes provide a boost to physicians and their practices are enhancing the provider-patient relationship, streamlining clinical documentation and alleviating administrative burdens — all of which help to decrease physician burnout. A satisfied physician often results in more satisfied patients and staff.

The Perks of a Strong Provider-Patient Relationship

lthough documenting a patient visit into an EHR system offers a higher level of accuracy and enables clinicians to update records in real-time, many patients have expressed

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frustration with the reduced face-to-face time that occurs because of this process. The use of medical scribes, however, allows physicians to interact directly with patients without being distracted by taking notes and filling out forms.

Research backs up this benefit. A study from the Kaiser Permanente integrated healthcare organization found that, along with lower clinician documentation burden and boosted efficiency, utilization of scribes results in improved physician-patient interaction

Achieving Accurate and Inobtrusive Clinical Documentation

Accurate and timely documentation is essential for physicians, especially for reporting quality measures and meeting other standards and guidelines. However, doctors spend an average of 16 minutes and 14 seconds per patient encounter using EHRs, with chart review, documentation and ordering accounting for most of the time. The result is less time listening as intently to patients.

Employing the services of a scribe enables physicians to focus their attention on the patient, not the computer. While the doctor examines the patient, the scribe can document findings, enter orders or referrals and more. In addition to increased documentation accuracy, this helps physicians avoid running behind schedule.

Lowering the Burden of Bureaucratic Tasks

Too many bureaucratic tasks is often cited as the number one reason for physician burnout, the consequences of which can be substantial. Clinician burnout results in medical errors, lower quality of

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care, higher costs and overall worse outcomes and is associated with an increased risk of patient safety incidents, poorer quality of care due to low professionalism and reduced patient satisfaction. For physicians, it’s associated with problematic alcohol use, broken relationships, depression and suicide.

Well-trained scribes integrated into a physician’s workflow typically increase the doctor’s productivity by allowing

them to focus on more patient-centered tasks. There are even studies that indicate that scribe utilization in primary care may improve provider efficiencies and experience without diminishing the patient experience.

Less time on administrative tasks means less time spent at the office. That’s a big step in improving a doctor’s work-life balance, a documented factor of physician burnout. Some research has even proven that a physician’s relative value units (RVUs) increase about .25 units with each ten percent increase in scribe usage.

Selecting a Medical Scribe Service

When healthcare providers enlist the help of companies that offer medical scribe services, they can avoid paying employment taxes and healthcare benefits. They also don’t have to deal with the time-consuming and sometimes expensive hassle of replacing their scribe if he or she moves on to another position.

Through our virtual scribe service, we’re able to provide you with a dedicated scribe who not only knows your working style, preferences and requirements but also keeps your patient encounters updated using our HIPAA-compliant custom platform. Contact us today to learn more!

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