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What’s Driving Up The Demand For Ophthalmology Scribes?

Ophthalmology scribes

Struggling to strike a balance between providing high-quality eye care and running a profitable practice? With declining reimbursements, burdensome documentation requirements, increased Medicare scrutiny and the shift towards electronic health records it is challenging for ophthalmologists to balance these two goals. Imagine being able to enjoy the best of both worlds – running a profitable practice and providing patients with a high level of eye care. Well, this is where ophthalmology scribes come into play. The use of scribes not only helps eye care practices stay afloat but also ensure accurate record-keeping, optimize workflows, and free up ophthalmologists to focus on delivering timely and high-quality patient care.

How scribes can be beneficial to an eye care practice?

Scribe use is nothing new especially for busy ophthalmology practices. Let’s see what eminent eye doctors have to say about the beneficial impact of ophthalmology scribes.

Dr. Pravin U. Dugel, MD, managing partner at Retinal Consultants of Arizona, Ltd., says that employing scribes has enabled him to attend to over 60 patients daily, using two exam rooms. He further added that he was able to focus on his patient and spend more time, while the scribe documents the exam. He also said that he didn’t have to multitask and was completely focused on the patient’s needs.

Dr. Michael Bennett, MD, a retina and vision care expert at the Retina Institute of Hawaii says that his scribe can efficiently key in the information as he speaks. He further added that scribes took care of time-consuming, repetitive data entry tasks, ensured charts were in compliance with insurance and Medicare requirements, generated e-prescriptions, scheduled surgeries and created consent forms for injections and surgical procedures.

Dr. Matthew S. Benz a Houston, TX board-certified retina surgeon says that scribes helped to work up patients and even e-prescribe. He further added that he relied heavily on scribes for patient education. They can help with Amsler grid interpretation, offer diabetes education, provide guidance on managing blood sugar levels, review signs of retinal detachment in cases of flashers and floaters, and address medication-related issues.

Dr. Antoszyk, a partner in the vitreoretinal service at Charlotte Eye Ear Nose and Throat Associates says that scribes play a pivotal role in managing patient data, typing interpretations directly into the EHR system, enabling him to focus on patient interaction. During intravitreal injections, the scribe assists with patient preparation, documentation, and post-injection care, ensuring a smooth process. Scribes also enter charges, gather financial information, and manage inventory, thereby enhancing clinic operations and reimbursement accuracy.

Dr. Pravin Dugel, MD, a vitreoretinal disease specialist in Saint Michaels, AZ says that his scribe keeps track of and informs him of patient flow. This way they can manage exam room time efficiently.

Jim Ohlenforst, ophthalmology manager at Charlotte Eye Ear Nose and Throat Associates says that the scribe ensures that physicians stay on schedule without causing a backlog in the clinic.

Let us now discuss some of the changes in eye care delivery that’s driving up the demand for ophthalmology scribes.

Increase in patients receiving intravitreal injections

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the main reason why people over 50 lose their vision permanently. This is set to surge in the coming years due to population growth by about 20% from 195.6 million in 2020 to 243.3 million by 2030. Treating AMD often requires frequent check-ups and injections directly into the eye every 4 to 6 weeks. This means patients might have to visit the doctor many times a year, which is more often than before when they typically only visited three or four times annually.

Decline in profit margins

Dr. Pravin Dugel, MD, a vitreoretinal disease specialist in Saint Michaels, AZ conducted a systematic retrospective review of a multi-city, multi-physician retinal practice's accounting system to gather information on income, costs, and profitability. This activity-based costing (ABC) revealed a rise in office visits and utilization of OCT and non-OCT diagnostics, which negatively impacted the practice's profit margins. Moreover, as the use of anti-VEGF injections has increased, retina practices nationwide have found ways to accommodate more patient visits, medical retinal services and medical imaging. But unfortunately this led to a significant increase in operational expenses. Hence, despite substantial revenue growth, these practices experienced a 14% decrease in their profit margins overall.

Rise in aging population

The aging population is projected to grow significantly in the coming years. By 2030, it's estimated that approximately 67 million Americans aged 65 or older will be enrolled in Medicare, representing a substantial increase of nearly 27 million compared to 2010. This trend will continue to rise as the older population continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, leading to a substantial increase in the need for services and healthcare.

Prevalence of low vision and blindness

The anticipated rise in the prevalence of vision loss and impairment is indeed concerning. By 2050, it's projected that the number of Americans experiencing vision loss and impairment could double from 1.02 million in 2015 to 2.1 million. A similar increase is also expected for cases of low vision.

Rise in the prevalence of diseases requiring in-office treatment

A study published in JAMA Ophthalmology titled "The Prevalence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration in the United States In 2019" revealed that approximately 19.83 million Americans were diagnosed with some form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in 2019. This figure represents a notable increase of over 2.75 times compared to previous estimates and signals an impending public health crisis. Another study predicts that by 2050 the number of Americans 40 years or older with DR and VTDR will triple.

Medical scribes play a vital role in easing the administrative load on ophthalmologists, enabling them to prioritize patient care and the business aspect of their practice. By handling tasks such as retrieving patient data, documenting assessments and care plans, coding visits, educating patients, and assisting with procedures, scribes help ophthalmic practices remain financially viable. This way they can boost patient visits by 25% to 100%, and most importantly allow ophthalmologists to spend more time with each patient while staying abreast of the changing trends in eye care.

Well, are you looking to hire ophthalmology scribes for your practice? If yes, then you’re definitely at the right place. At Physicians Angels we have a team of highly trained and qualified ophthalmology scribes who can provide secure remote assistance to document all of your eye care services. To learn more, visit or contact us today.