From the Journals

Medical scribe use linked to lower physician burnout



The incorporation of medical scribes into an outpatient oncology setting may lower physician burnout and improve patient care, according to a retrospective study.

“The objective of this study was to determine the effect of scribe integration on clinic workflow efficiency and physician satisfaction and quality of life in outpatient oncology clinics,” wrote Rebecca W. Gao, MD, of Stanford (Calif.) Medicine, and colleagues in the Journal of Oncology Practice.

The researchers retrospectively analyzed patient and survey data from 129 physicians connected with a tertiary care academic medical center during 2017-2019. In the study, 33 physicians were paired with a scribe, while 96 others were not.

During each patient encounter, visit duration times were recorded into an electronic medical record by a medical scribe. The scribes also performed a variety of other tasks, including collating lab results, documenting medical history, and completing postvisit summaries.

In the analysis, the team compared average visit duration times between physicians with and without a scribe. The effects of scribe integration on individual physician’s visit times were also assessed.

After analysis, the researchers found that physicians with a scribe experienced a 12.1% reduction in overall average patient visit duration, compared with visit times before scribe integration (P less than .0001). They also reported that less time was spent charting at the end of the day (P = .04).

“Compared with their peers, oncologists with scribes showed a 10%-20% decrease in the duration of all patient visits,” they explained.

With respect to patient care, survey results revealed that 90% of physicians strongly agreed they spent additional time with patients, and less time at the computer. “100% of physicians surveyed ‘strongly agreed’ that scribes improved their quality of life,” they added.

The researchers acknowledged that a key limitation of the study was the single-center design. As a result, these findings may not be applicable to physicians practicing in community-based settings.

Further studies could include financial analyses to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of medical scribe use in oncology practices, they noted.

“Our study suggests that scribes can be successfully integrated into oncology clinics and may benefit physician quality of life, clinic workflow efficiency, and the quality of physician-patient interactions,” they concluded.

The study was funded by the Stanford Cancer Center. One study author reported financial affiliations with SurgVision, Vergent Biotechnology, Novadaq Technologies, and LI-COR Biosciences.

SOURCE: Gao RW et al. J Oncol Pract. 2019 Dec 5. doi: 10.1200/JOP.19.00307.

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