Likely as not, these days a physician keeps your medical history and documentation in something called an electronic medical record — an electronic database that allows your information to be accessed by healthcare providers quickly and easily.This positive development also has a downside. The time it takes to document every doctor-patient contact in detail, via a computer can be considerable,and potentially detract from the patient-doctor interaction.You might have witnessed this yourself – the physician hunched over a keyboard intermittently during an exam, face creased with concentration as they type notes instead of interacting with you.
The upshot? This data-entry burden may take precious time and attention away from the patient and the physician’s practice of medicine.This issue is especially telling for those in the front lines of medicine including family medics and pediatricians. They may have cared for your family from birth, are typically those you turn to first with a medical problem, and are sources of unimpeachable advice. In other words, their relationship with you and your familyis especially important.
To nurture this relationship the doctor needs to invest quality time. There is growing recognition, however, that data reporting requirements – these are mandated by the government –are a mounting if unintended impediment to the efficient practice of medicine, and the highest standards of patient care. One effective way of mitigating this issue for a pediatrician is the Medical Scribe.
Often a pre-med studentrepresenting the next generation of doctors, the scribe stands quietly in a corner of the room and typesup notes from the patient visit into an electronic database. They take over this time-consuming, distracting responsibility from the physician. In this way the scribe enhances physician efficiency –for example allowing them to see more patients, reduce waiting-room times, and importantly –permitting them to focus single-mindedly on the patient. This more patient-centered interaction allows the doctor to get to know their patients better, spend more quality-time addressing their health and well being, and deliver the highest quality of care.
Scribesalso perform other,unobtrusive duties in the exam room that can make your visit more relaxed and productive. They can engage a child while their sibling is being seen, afford the physician the extra time needed to investigate,in-depth, any behavioral issues — a common but complex part of pediatric medicine. Or they can document, upfront,the laundry list of questions often brought in by parents, making sure they get answered by visit’s end. Literally last – but not least in importance — is the end-of-visit report typed up by a scribe, called an After Visit Summary, that captures important follow ups for the patient. A scribe can prepare this document, highlighting relevant information in layman’s terms, and in detail – even down to a brand of vitamin suggested. Studies show that up to 80% of a doctor’s verbal advice is forgotten after the visit, with the remaining 20% sometimes recalled inaccurately. This after-visit summary remedies this – and absolves the parent from the responsibility of accurate recall or scribbling their own notes.
By investing in a medical scribe, pediatricians are making a conscious effort to deliver a higher quality of care – in two ways: make their practice of medicine more efficient; and invest in their relationship with you and your family. So next time you look for a new pediatrician,and are forming a favorable impression at the meet-and-greet,consider asking them if they have a medical scribe. If they do, this is a good sign. If they explain that it is to provide better care for your family — then you probably just hit a home run.
Kathleen Myers MD
Emergency Physician, and Chief Medical Officer of Essia Health