Objective: Scribes have been used in the emergency department to improve physician productivity and patient interaction. There are no controlled, prospective studies of scribe use in the clinic setting.
Methods: A prospective controlled study compared standard visits (20 minute follow-up and 40 minute new patient) to a scribe system (15 minute follow-up and 30 minute new patient) in a cardiology clinic. Physician productivity, patient satisfaction, physician-patient interaction, and revenue were measured.
Results: Four physicians saw 129 patients using standard care and 210 patients with scribes during 65 clinic hours each. Patients seen per hour increased (P < 0.001) from 2.2 ± 0.3 to 3.5 ± 0.4 (59% increase) and work relative value units (wRVU) per hour increased (P < 0.001) from 3.5 ± 1.3 to 5.5 ± 1.3 (57% increase). Patient satisfaction was high at baseline and unchanged with scribes. In a substudy, direct patient contact time was lower (9.1 ± 2.0 versus 12.9 ± 3.4 minutes; P < 0.01) for scribe visits, but time of patient interaction (without computer) was greater (6.7 ± 2.1 versus 1.5 ± 1.9 minutes; P < 0.01). Subjective assessment of physician-patient interaction (1-10) was higher (P < 0.01) on scribe visits (9.1 ± 0.9 versus 7.9 ± 1.1). Direct and indirect (downstream) revenue per patient seen was $142 and $2,398, with $205,740 additional revenue generated from the 81 additional patients seen with scribes.
Conclusion: Using scribes in a cardiology clinic is feasible, produces improvements in physician-patient interaction, and results in large increases in physician productivity and system cardiovascular revenue.
Keywords: patient interaction, scribe; physician productivity, medical economics, patient satisfaction, physician.