Does it matter who serves as the scribe?



As a scribe and accepted future medical student, I was quite interested in the article, “Medical scribes: How do their notes stack up?” by Misra-Hebert, et al (J Fam Pract. 2016;65:155-159) and the editorial, “Working with scribes—the good, the surprising” (J Fam Pract. 2016;65:154,176) in the March issue. I was struck, however, that both pieces implied that only medical assistants (MAs) are scribes.

I am familiar with practices where MAs assume a “documentation support” function in addition to their traditional role, and I currently work in a practice with professional scribes. Professional scribes are often recent college graduates who are working before beginning their studies to become a physician or physician assistant.

In my experience, MAs want to do the work they were hired and trained to do and are not enthusiastic about extensive charting. However, professional scribes apply to the position expecting to do this very task, with the goals of learning from the doctor-patient interaction, deepening their medical knowledge, and becoming comfortable in a clinical setting.

Although I am glad to see that MAs improve documentation quality per the original research mentioned above, it would be beneficial to compare the outcomes of professional scribes to those of cross-trained MAs or to traditional providers who do their own note-writing.

D. Brendan Johnson, BA
Minneapolis, Minn

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