concerns arise as more mds turn to the use of scribes

There is no question that the days of physicians’ having to leaf through a paper folder to find the necessary patient information are rapidly coming to an end. Instead, electronic medical records are now the new norm in medical offices and hospitals, allowing physicians to access and enter a wealth of patient information in a series of keystrokes.

While electronic medical records do have certain advantages, not all physicians have necessarily been happy with their introduction. Here, the primary complaint seems to be that the constant need to enter information into the laptop or tablet computer not only detracts from time that could be spent examining the patient more closely, but also creates a seemingly insurmountable workload consisting of updating patient files.

Interestingly, a growing number of hospitals and doctor’s offices are now using a heretofore unknown practice to help free physicians from the strictures of electronic medical records.

The practice in question is the hiring of scribes, meaning third parties who shadow the physicians during their shifts or office hours, quietly recording and updating patient data during exams.

Thus far, many physicians have been receptive to the new practice, claiming it’s a move in the right direction.

“The patients get undivided attention from the physicians,” said one primary care physician who conducts independent research on peer dissatisfaction. “The scribes are continuously learning while making an important contribution, and the physician gets the satisfaction of doing the work they went into medicine for in the first place.”

It’s important to note, however, that not everyone is thrilled with the introduction of scribes into medical settings.

Some physicians are concerned about patient privacy. Specifically, they are concerned that patients may not feel comfortable being examined or even discussing their medical problems in the presence of a third party who is not a medical professional.

While this is certainly a valid concern, another potential issue is what happens if the scribe makes a transcription error. Absent the existence of some sort of review system, a simple missed keystroke or wrong selection from a pull-down menu could have significant — if not potentially fatal — consequences for a patient.

What are your thoughts on your treating physician using a scribe during an exam? Would it make you uncomfortable? Are you concerned about the accuracy of the information recorded?

If you believe that medical malpractice has resulted in irreparable harm, consider speaking with a legal professional about how you can seek both justice and peace of mind.

Source: The New York Times, “A busy doctor’s right hand, ever ready to type,” Katie Hafner, Jan. 12, 2014

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