You won't find many medical providers who relish all the charting and note taking that comes with their job. From documenting patient encounters to working through insurance approvals to managing billing, administrative tasks frequently pull providers away from what they want to do most: treat patients. To make matters worse, these associated administrative tasks have grown over the years to the point where providers now spend more than 15 hours per week on paperwork, nine of which are spent on electronic health record documentation alone.
So where do providers fit that additional 15 hours of work into an already busy week? They either see fewer patients or finish their paperwork during off hours. Neither solution is ideal. The first option decreases patient healthcare access, while the second worsens the ongoing crisis of overwhelmed American physicians.
Since 2013, Scribe-X has partnered with health care centers and clinics to solve this documentation challenge. Our highly-trained remote medical scribes join patients and providers in a virtual examination room and document the encounter in the EHR in real-time. At the end of the visit, the provider reviews the medical scribe's notes, signs the chart, and sends it off for billing. Providers don't have to worry about documenting the patient's visit during the examination or remembering key details after the appointment is over. They're also freed from that documentation burden and can use that additional time to see more patients or truly enjoy their time off.
But what does medical scribe support look like for a healthcare provider in the real world? Can medical scribes really take over documentation to a provider's satisfaction? And does that additional support carry over to the home? To find out, we interviewed Dr. Gregory Parker of One Community Health, a federally qualified health center (FQHC) in Hood River, Oregon.
One Community Health entered into a medical scribe pilot study with Scribe-X, and Dr. Parker was one of the first providers to partner with one of our scribes. We discussed his experience as a medical provider before and after working with a medical scribe. We also spoke with Dr. Parker's wife, Rianne, about the changes she noticed at home. In short, medical scribes allowed Dr. Parker to reestablish meaningful connections with his family, his patients, and himself.
For Dr. Parker, his days didn't end when he left the office. Instead, he could enjoy a short break before diving back into his documentation responsibilities. "There was this window of time starting at about 10 p.m. going until 2 a.m. on most of my work days, and oftentimes other weekends or non-work days, too, where I was logging in and finishing charting."
Doctor Parker's wife, Rianne, noticed the toll the documentation burden was taking on her husband. "When he would finally fall asleep at night while charting, I would actually get up and take the laptop off of his chest, and I would put it on the floor next to the bed and take off his glasses and put them on the table next to him because he was so exhausted and it was just nonstop."
The never-ending pull of those documentation responsibilities carried over into every aspect of Dr. Parker's life to the point where it was challenging to be fully present in his supposedly off hours. Fortunately, that dynamic shifted dramatically when he began working with a medical scribe.
Medical scribe support enabled Dr. Parker to set aside his documentation responsibilities after leaving work. "[Patient notes are] captured in the way I think and the way I want documented," he said. "I'll give my billing and ordering in the visit, and then all the other documentation my scribe does for us. Sometimes, I go back and tweak things a little bit, and it's me micromanaging stuff that probably doesn't need to be micromanaged. And I sometimes will go in and spend a minute on a chart, or 30 seconds on a chart, but it's short, it's quick if I'm doing that at all. I don't know the last time I've stayed up until 2 a.m. just to do charts."
Rianne agrees. "There are two notable differences," she said. "The first is his baseline stress level. When he would come home from work before we had scribes, you could tell he wasn't done, like his brain was still working. He's thinking about how quickly we're going to eat dinner and how quickly he can get to his charts because they're sort of unending. With Scribe-X, when he comes home from work, he's lighter, he's happier, he's more easily engaged in what's happening at home.
"Also, we were having to schedule our weekend as a family around how many charts Greg had to do, so it made it hard to plan for family weekend events when there were times where he just flat out couldn't participate in whatever we were doing because he had to stay home and do charts on the weekend. So there is none of that now, and I feel like it's really given our family this different quality of life that I've wanted for as long as we've been married.
"[Scribes have] been such a boost for us as a family, but I see a difference in Greg as well. And it's been amazing."
Dr. Parker's patients also benefited from One Community Health's new medical scribe program. "[Before scribes], what I was sacrificing to be near a patient and have face-to-face contact when I needed to was the charting that then piled up afterward," he said. "Now, it's not really even a thought. I don't need to position myself at the computer. I can be as close as I need to be, touching them when I need to, without worrying about how I'm going to document what they're telling me at the same time.
"That's what I wanted to do. That's the type of interaction I wanted to have with patients. A lot of providers don't realize until they start seeing their own patients that they have to navigate this whole other system with computers, and billing, and documentation. And when that goes away, and you can then have that interaction with patients, that's what we expect our job and our calling to be, that type of relationship. I can't imagine life without a scribe now."
Adding a medical scribe to his daily routine dramatically altered Dr. Parker’s career. “I will say that as far as my day-to-day work-life balance and experience at work is concerned, this has probably been the biggest change that has happened in the ten years I've been at the clinic. It has had a dramatic and positive impact on my time and my mental health.”
The job of a medical provider is difficult enough without adding in hours and hours of documentation. In the case of Dr. Parker and thousands of other providers we've worked with nationwide, Scribe-X medical scribes dramatically altered their work experience. Fewer hours of documentation equals more time practicing medicine and more time recharging with family and friends.
Clinics benefit from medical scribes as well. Not only are their providers happier and more likely to stay long-term, but a medical scribe program can drive additional clinical revenue in several ways. If you'd like to learn more about how you can help your providers and patients lead healthier and happier lives while setting your clinic on a path to financial success, contact Scribe-X today at email@example.com. By working together, we can improve the healthcare industry one provider at a time.