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Scribes Improve Physicians' Physical, Financial Health


For physicians who routinely encourage patients to adopt healthier lifestyles, staying healthy themselves is more than just eating right and exercising regularly.

“Practice what you preach” is sound advice for everyone. But for physicians, who routinely encourage patients to adopt healthier lifestyles, staying healthy themselves is more than just eating right and exercising regularly. It’s dealing day to day with a high-stress profession.

“There are [electronic medical record] mandates and all the different stages of meaningful use,” explains Michael Murphy, MD, founder and chief executive officer of ScribeAmerica. “There are increasing mandates with compliance issues, and the struggle with decreasing reimbursements while every year the average cost of living continues to rise. All those things combined will make anybody go nuts.”

Personal health at stake

Murphy likens physicians to good soldiers. They may not be military, but they went to medical school, gave up weekends for residency and fellowships, and reliquished holidays and family time for the betterment of society. Then the government issues another mandate and paychecks get cut, but physicians keep marching on because they’re working for the community at large.

However, everyone has a breaking point.

“Physicians are at their practice at 6 am and staying ’til 8 pm,” Murphy says. “They can’t round on their patients any more because they have to keep the doors open longer just to see more patients and keep profitable. And they miss their kids’ ball game or dance recital. You have to weigh that work-life balance at some point in your life. And, whether it’s a divorce or just a breakdown, it’s happening at increasing rates.”

And, unfortunately, some physicians don’t realize the implications until it’s too late. They may start losing patients because satisfaction scores are dropping. Or, Murphy says, in the case of a Georgia hospital that poorly implemented a new electronic health record (EHR) and resulted in the resignation of the CEO, physicians are staging a mass exodus because they don’t want to work there any more.

“Finally, when your kid says something to you about making a change, that’s the ‘ah-ha’ moment,” Murphy says.

Getting back in touch

ScribeAmerica was founded in 2004 on the concept of taking the physician and nurse away from the computer and putting them back in the exam room with the patient, and allowing them to have that personal touch and personal aspect. ScribeAmerica’s goal is to take care of the EHR in real time.

“We allow the physician to have the whole visit focused on the patient while the scribe is recording the encounter real time, and entering codes, letting the physician know if they missed something that should be asked, and helping with some of the orders as well,” Murphy says. “The scribe’s goal is to alleviate about 90% to 95% of the documentation mandated by the physician.”

When doctors are no longer acting as data entry specialists, they can see more patients in the same amount of time, he explains. Physicians can even increase the amount of time they spend with each patient because they’re not worried about charting in between each visit.

When that happens, Murphy explains, physicians are much happier, more stress-free people. And that translates to the patient in the way of increased patient satisfaction scores. He points to orthopedic surgeons, who had patient satisfaction scores in the 20th or 30th percentile and were brought up to the 85th percentile.

“That’s because they can focus on being a doctor; focus on patient care,” Murphy says. “It’s a huge game changer.”

Making fiscal sense

Murphy suggests physicians ask themselves what 2 or 3 hours of their day is worth, and then attach a dollar amount to those hours, whether it’s $500, $1,000, or more. Then determine how many hours per day they spend documenting and correcting charts.

“Most of the time it’s 2 or 3 hours,” he says. “That will go away when you have a scribe.”

Freeing up those hours will also enable physicians to see approximately 8 more patients each day, Murphy says. And that’s quality time because physicians are completely focused on their patients.

Hiring a scribe can help pay the bills, enable a physician to close the practice an hour earlier, be able to give everything a needed raise, or purchase equipment to make enhancements to the practice, according to Murphy.

“If you look at the financial aspect, consider an outpatient visit,” he suggests. “It’s roughly $150 for a patient emergency visit, and it costs about $160 a day for a scribe. So, if you see one or 2 more patients a day, you’ve broken even. And most of the time [physicians are] seeing 6 to 8 more patients in a shift, which more than pays for it.”

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