How Remote Medical Scribes Are Reducing Physician Burnout

Being a doctor doesn’t mean all you do, day in and day out, is set to your patient’s medical needs and concerns. Fact is, doctors spend almost as much time treating patients as they do going over electronic health records. That’s where a virtual medical scribe comes in.

Says VP, virtual medical scribes, their business is engineered as a hospital and physician service with their primary mission being helping health care administrators, nurses, and doctors who are already overloaded with work. They help manage the all too complicated business of modern medicine, while more importantly, improving the doctor/patient hands on experience.

But how exactly are medical scribes preventing physician and medical professional burnout in the 2020s? According to a new article by Medical Economics, the use of remote medical scribes has the potential to reduce primary care physician burnout by significantly reducing the time spent reviewing electronic health records or EHRs.

Data shows that by working with remote scribes, physicians, administrators, and nurses cut their EHR time by up to 1.15 hours per every eight hours of patient scheduled visits. This is said to be mostly due to less work with patient notes. They were also able to cut more than thirty minutes off their EHR time outside of their regularly scheduled work, or claims the data from a new study on the subject.

At the same time, physicians who are working with remote scribes attested to a decrease in burnout from 51.4 percent to 70.3 percent. Meanwhile, sensations of burnout increased from 50 percent to 60.3 percent for a dedicated control group of physicians who did not work with remote scribes. This is according to a EHR study that was recently published in the journal Healthcare, “The effect of remote scribes on primary care physicians’ wellness, EHR satisfaction, and EHR use.”

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Remote Work

The Healthcare report was said to involve close to 40 interns, general pediatrics professionals, family medicine physicians, plus adolescent physicians working in primary care clinics at the University of Wisconsin Health. The group also included the lead author on the project, Mark A. Micek, MD, MPH. The study utilized only audio-only cell phone connections with off-site scribes for documenting clinical sessions.

A control group of more than 150 physicians practiced without the benefit of the scribes. The second author, Brian Arndt, joined this control group to observe and study the outcomes. With COVID-19 lockdowns having severely disrupted the study period, the researchers had no choice but to utilize findings collected for two five-month periods from March through August of 2019 and May, 31, 2020 to October 31, 2020. Once the lockdowns were lifted, the remote scribes were able to assist with both telemedicine and in-person visits.

Says Medical Economics, the EHR system contained a built-in recorder for physicians and medical professionals who were also willing to answer questions provided by the so-called Mini-Z Burnout Survey. The scribes reported significant improvements in overall wellness metrics such as a happy workplace.

There also resulted a more than 10 percent increase in the percentage of orders with team contributions, or so the study attested. In other words, people were more willing to work with one another since they were less stressed out.

Other Factors to Consider

According to the report’s authors, their early study utilized remote scribes rather than in-person scribes who would normally accompany clinicians into an exam room along with the patients. It’s said that remote scribes are easier to manage logistically. They are also less intrusive for physician-patient meetings, or so the study states.

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It should be noted that the scribes did not reduce all physician-related work. The doctors who participated in the study were still expected to review patient notes. They also agreed to see one additional patient per half-day office session which was intended to offset the costs of the program.

In some cases, the remote scribes did not alter physicians’ overall satisfaction with EHR in any significant way, or so it was later reported. The scribes also did not change the burnout rate in every doctor which is said to be measured by interpersonal disengagement, professional fulfillment (or the lack thereof), and work exhaustion. But these factors might be influenced by other aspects of the work process unrelated to the scribes, or so researchers were quick to point out.

Being a successful physician is had work. Generally speaking, remote scribes definitely have a benign impact on lessening the load a physician and medical personnel must contend with on a daily basis. However, other work factors can still have a direct impact on physician burnout.