On your next visit to the emergency room, don’t be surprised if the attending physician walks in accompanied by a medical scribe. These “scribes” as the name suggests, are clerks or transcribers who take the burden of paperwork off the doctors and allow them to focus on the patient. “I act as a third arm for the healthcare provider; instead of typing and staring at the screen, the doctor can have more face-to-face time,” said Anthony Ramirez, a scribe with ScribeAmerica who works in the emergency room department at Marlboro Hospital and has also helped set up scribe programs at Harvard Vanguard in Kenmore Square. Scribes like Ramirez have become increasingly commonplace in the healthcare setting, especially as physicians transition to potentially time-consuming electronic medical records (EMR) and deal with administrative requirements in an increasingly regulated field. Globe correspondent Cindy Atoji Keene spoke with Ramirez about the role of the medical scribe.
“I first heard about medical scribes when I accompanied a close friend of mine to the emergency room. We were waiting in the exam room, when the physician came in, trailed by a person who took all his notes. I was surprised at how efficient it made the visit – the doctor wasn’t distracted by having to enter notes, codes or prescriptions. It hit me that this was something I should do, especially since I was a pre-med student at the time and always looking for a way to get clinical exposure to make myself more competitive for medical school. It’s helpful for scribes to have some medical knowledge or background; the provider is not going to get an increase in productivity and efficiency if the charting is not done properly. ScribeAmerica gives scribes a crash course on medical terminology, pathophysiology, and medical documentation as well as compliance, such as the HIPAA privacy act. We also have training to get a feeling for the workflow and using the EMR. It definitely takes a certain kind of ability to be able to actively listen and chart in detail as the conversation is happening. The physician always authenticates the chart afterwards to make sure everything is accurate. Any notation the scribe makes – even every character and word – is distinguishable from the provider. The present day use of scribes started in the ER but now the outpatient side has exploded as well. I personally like the fast-paced environment of the ER and the high-variability. Clinical cases range from stubbing a toe to critically ill patients receiving advanced cardiac lifesaving interventions. I believe that medical scribes are going to be standard in healthcare and part of the team. It’s soon going to be not ‘the doctor will see you now,’ but the ‘doctor and the scribe will see you now.’