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The Other Person in the Room
The Other Person in the Room: How In-Person Scribes Affect the Physician-Patient Relationship
The physician-patient relationship is one of the most unique interpersonal dynamics any of us have. Beyond family, where else are such sensitive, vulnerable and deeply personal issues commonly discussed?
This is why understanding the dynamics that affect this relationship is so essential for maintaining and growing a successful physician practice. Today, with so many physicians adjusting their processes and procedures in the wake of staffing shortages and other business realities, it is a good time to address how in-person scribes impact the physician-patient relationship.
The Two-Way Value of a Trusting Physician-Patient Relationship
Because of its impact on open and honest communication, the strength of the physician-patient relationship can have profound implications on patient outcomes. A study reported in the Annals of Family Medicine found a stronger physician-patient relationship is positively associated with improved patient functional health. As stated in the report, “These findings provide data-driven evidence of the importance of relationship-centered care as one viable strategy to improve population health outcomes.”
Similarly, the physician authors of Four Models of the Physician-Patient Relationship cite the patient’s level of trust in the physician – the strength of their belief that their physician will work in their best interests – as one of the most important factors influencing optimal health outcomes.
And, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Many studies have shown that trust levels strongly predict patient satisfaction and a patient continuing with their provider, which have an obvious impact on the success of a practice. These studies indicate that “trust” involves many aspects of the physician-patient relationship, including physicians’ willingness to listen to patients, patients’ belief that physicians value patient autonomy and ability to make informed decisions, and patients feeling comfortable enough to express and engage in dialogue related to their health concerns.
The Effect of In-Person Scribes on Physician-Patient Relationships
Viewing physician-patient relationships as a core element of quality healthcare is not new. However, uncovering, understanding and assessing the factors that influence these relationships should be an ongoing effort for physicians. Because, despite its importance, the physician-patient relationship and the encounters that it requires are not always perfect.
For example, using scribes has garnered a generally positive research base for improving clinician satisfaction, productivity, time-related efficiency, revenue and physician-patient interactions. Nevertheless, there are concerns regarding the negative impact of in-person scribes on the physician-patient relationship.
While the traditional in-person scribe role was created to meet increased documentation demands and free up time for physicians, some patients see it as a downside. They often feel uncomfortable with a second person in the room and are reluctant to divulge information to someone who isn’t their primary caregiver.
And, with the average tenure of an in-person scribe being less than a year, even patients who aren’t overly bothered by the presence of an in-person scribe must adjust to a new face from visit to visit. Physicians should keep this in mind, as a patient’s comfort level plays a large part in developing trust within the relationship.
Once again, research clearly shows that patients with higher trust in their doctors are more likely to disclose personal information, adhere to their medications and feel less anxious about their treatments. They’re also more likely to be satisfied with their treatment and experience better health outcomes. As such, building trust with patients should be a top priority for physicians.
Virtual Medical Scribes Improve the Physician-Patient Relationship
There is no denying that scribes are incredibly helpful in offloading administrative burdens from physicians. They allow physicians to concentrate more on the patient and less on typing notes into a computer, which ultimately benefits the physician-patient relationship. However, many patients prefer only to have their physician in the room during a visit, one of the reasons Virtual Medical Scribes have become such a popular option. With Virtual Scribes, patients feel more comfortable and physicians still benefit from having someone help update electronic health records (EHRs).
For many physicians, Virtual Medical Scribes are a best-of-both-worlds solution that help physicians handle documentation requirements while simultaneously focusing on their relationship with the patient.
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.