Why do ER doctors choose to utilize an emergency medical scribe during their shifts? This article explains a few reasons.
Every person who is given an assignment, no matter the type of assignment—from schoolwork to tasks at work—is expected to be efficient while they are doing it. It is also an unwritten but expected notion that a person pursuing a career in Emergency Medicine is always expected to be “on point” and able to handle the stresses that come with the territory—all without complaining.
No matter how well someone “multi-tasks”, one can only do so much during a shift. There have been cost-efficient and proven solutions for some time, but some have been slow to adopt due to the underlying sentiment that ER docs can (and should) handle anything coming their way.
One proven solution is the use of an emergency medical scribe during an ER shift. Medical scribes have many benefits for emergency medicine physicians. Here are a few of the most compelling:
- Reports as early as the 1970s outline how the use of Medical Scribes has improved the efficiency and overall emergency department flow.
- A white paper written by the American College of Emergency Physicians concluded that Medical Scribes had over a 100% return on investment and how scribe-assisted physicians managed to cut their workday by 1.3 hours.
- In a 2019 study, it was concluded that Medical Scribes improved ER physician productivity and decreased patient length of stay all while proving there was a favorable financial outcome from a cost-benefit analysis.
- Monetary benefits of a Medical Scribe program include increased patient volume throughput, increased RVU/patient, increased compliance, and reduction of medical errors, which leads to decreased costs.
- Even when hospital administrators decide to stop “paying” for medical scribes, as one Pediatric ER physician noted, “all but 2 of 28 ER physicians decided to continue using scribes and pay for the cost.”
ER physicians are a practical bunch, and that is one of the underlying reasons why most ER physicians would gladly invest in medical scribes. The cost of a medical scribe is covered by improved documentation and the resultant coding in just a few patients. In addition, better work-life balance and mental health well-being are paramount to ER physicians. Burnout in emergency department physicians is real and can be ameliorated by implementing some interventions that alleviate the clerical burden of documentation.
As more and more extreme adverse results affect emergency room physicians—like levels of burnout increasing from 43% to 60% in just 2 years or that nearly half of all physicians have already switched their careers—healthcare leaders and supporters need to start advocating for the proven and effective solution of Medical Scribes to alleviate the compounding burdens before we end up in even more dire circumstances.
 Allred RJ, Ewer S. Improved emergency department patient flow: Five years of experience with a scribe system. Ann Emerg Med. 1983;12(3):162-163.