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It Pays to Have a Virtual Scribe, but Who Should Pay for the Scribe Service?

Who Should Pay for your Scribe Service?

When it comes to the many benefits of Virtual Scribes, one thing is clear: The value and productivity that they bring to a medical practice cannot be discounted. The work medical scribes do often make an immense difference in the work-life balance of clinicians today.

One thing that perhaps isn’t as clear, though, is who should be paying for a scribe: the physician? Or their healthcare system?

As a company providing Virtual Scribe services for nearly 15 years, Physicians Angels has seen a fairly even mix among administrators who see the worth of Virtual Scribes as a smart business investment, and physicians who pay for scribes out of their own pockets to save time and ensure a healthy work-life balance.

Healthcare System Administrators See Scribes as Sound Investment

For many healthcare administrators, the many advantages of Virtual Scribes make the decision an easy one. From a business perspective, providing this invaluable service to their clinicians is a no-brainer. It’s keeping their frontline healthcare providers less stressed and more in tune with their patients. In turn, patients are gaining a better experience.

Patients leave the clinic feeling like their physician was focused more on their needs and concerns—and less on entering notes into the computer. For the amount of money that patients pay, the efficiency and customer service satisfaction that healthcare systems are seeing across the board have proven to be more than worth their investment.

According to one 2018 study conducted by the JAMA Internal Medicine on Physician Work Environment and Well-Being, “Medical scribes were associated with decreased physician EHR documentation burden, improved work efficiency, and improved visit interactions. Our results support the use of medical scribes as one strategy for improving physician workflow and visit quality in primary care.”

In the crossover study, 18 primary care physicians reported that “the use of scribes was associated with significant reductions in electronic health record documentation time and significant improvements in productivity and job satisfaction.” Furthermore, of the 735 patients asked, 450 (61.2%) reported that the scribes had a “positive bearing” on their visits; only 2.4% of the same patients reported a “negative bearing.”

It also cannot be denied that from a business perspective, scribes can—and often do—pay for themselves. In a study by JAMA Dermatology, 79% of physicians reported their willingness to take on additional patients when offered the support of a scribe. According to the study, the use of scribes was linked to a 7.7 percent rise in fourth quarter practice revenue compared to the two previous years.

When the AMA looked into this data for their article, “The Overlooked Benefits of Medical Scribes,” they found that the return on investment for many practices was ten-fold. “The cardiology practice study compared to the annual patient and revenue volume of 10 physicians with scribes and 15 without. The improved productivity was linked to 3,029 more relative-value units (RVUs) of work from 507 more patient visits. This translated into revenue of almost 1.4 million at a cost of almost $99,000.

In the hospital setting, healthcare administrations have reported improvements across the board for both physician and patient satisfaction. According to an SCP Health article titled, “Top 9 Benefits of Using Scribes in Your Emergency or Hospital Practice,” bringing on scribes to assist has made a large impact. The article references not only increased efficiency and productivity, but also better bedside manner, adequate shift coverage ensured and reduced wait times. Enhanced patient satisfaction and provider satisfaction also make the list.

“Of equal importance to improving patient satisfaction is making sure providers are satisfied, which is another area where scribes perform a vital function,” the article states. “One Arizona hospital implemented the use of Virtual Scribes due to provider satisfaction being low based on their need to spend up to two additional hours after their shift to complete documentation. Scribes were able to document and review in real-time, saving the providers an average of 24 minutes per shift, which meant they spent less time at the hospital and more time at home with family.”

Even with healthcare systems that do choose to cover the cost of scribes for their clinicians, questions may still arise about uniformity across all practices. In some cases, there are mandates for uniformity when it comes to which scribe companies they employ.

In other cases, the administrators will leave it up to each individual practice to select the scribe company that best suits their needs. For instance, perhaps a practice is falling behind on their back office work. In those cases, aligning with a company that specializes in a particular niche may be necessary, meaning that what works for one practice within the system will not work as well for the next.

Physicians Hire Scribes on Their Own Dime to Save Time and Sanity

On the other side of the coin, there are still many healthcare systems today that are not opting for system-wide medical scribe usage. In these cases, whether they’re part of an independent practice or part of a larger system that doesn’t invest in scribes, a large majority of physicians who employ scribes are doing so out of their own pockets—and gladly. In the name of productivity, time, and yes, their own sanity, more and more physicians are realizing that hiring a scribe is well worth the investment.

As we’ve previously discussed, the weight of the physician’s workplace is heavier than ever before. Documentation demands are at an all-time high. The pandemic continues to surge. Burnout is building at rapid rates.

More than ever, physicians are realizing that they just can’t do it alone. And, thanks to the help of well-qualified, reliable scribes, they’re also realizing that they no longer have to.

Physicians Angels is the industry’s first virtual scribe company, providing real-time documentation directly into the physician’s EMR, along with Virtual Back Office services. Our services save the physician an average of 10 hours per week, thereby improving patient throughput and contributing to a better work/life balance for the physician and office staff. To learn more, visit physiciansangels.com or contact us.

About the author

Physicians Angels

More time for physicians to see more patients, provide better care, and live their lives. Physicians Angels provides one-of-a-kind EMR data management services to healthcare providers through our real time Virtual Scribe service.