Objectives: The objective was to quantify the effect of scribes on three measures of emergency physician (EP) productivity in an adult emergency department (ED).
Methods: For this retrospective study, 243 clinical shifts (of either 10 or 12 hours) worked by 13 EPs during an 18-month period were selected for evaluation. Payroll data sheets were examined to determine whether these shifts were covered, uncovered, or partially covered (for less than 4 hours) by a scribe; partially covered shifts were grouped with uncovered shifts for analysis. Covered shifts were compared to uncovered shifts in a clustered design, by physician. Hierarchical linear models were used to study the association between percentage of patients with which a scribe was used during a shift and EP productivity as measured by patients per hour, relative value units (RVUs) per hour, and turnaround time (TAT) to discharge.
Results: RVUs per hour increased by 0.24 units (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.10 to 0.38, p = 0.0011) for every 10% increment in scribe usage during a shift. The number of patients per hour increased by 0.08 (95% CI = 0.04 to 0.12, p = 0.0024) for every 10% increment of scribe usage during a shift. TAT was not significantly associated with scribe use. These associations did not lose significance after accounting for physician assistant (PA) use.
Conclusions: In this retrospective study, EP use of a scribe was associated with improved overall productivity as measured by patients treated per hour (Pt/hr) and RVU generated per hour by EPs, but not as measured by TAT to discharge.