Effect of scribes on patient throughput, revenue, and patient and provider satisfaction: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Am J Emerg Med. 2016 Oct;34(10):2018-2028. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2016.07.056. Epub 2016 Jul 28.


Background: Scribes offer a potential solution to the clerical burden and time constraints felt by health care providers.

Objectives: This is a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate scribe effect on patient throughput, revenue, and patient and provider satisfaction.

Methods: Six electronic databases were systematically searched from inception until May 2015. We included studies where clinicians used a scribe. We collected throughput metrics, billing data, and patient/provider satisfaction data. Meta-analyses were conducted using a random effects model and mean differences (MDs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) with adherence to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis statement.

Results: From a total of 210 titles, 17 studies were eligible and included. Qualitative analysis suggests improvement in provider/patient satisfaction. Meta-analysis on throughput data was derived from 3 to 5 studies depending on the metric; meta-analysis revealed no impact of scribes on length of stay (346 minutes for scribes, 344 minutes for nonscribed; MD -1.6 minutes, 95% CI -22.3 to 19.2 minutes) or provider-to-disposition time (235 minutes for scribes, 216 for nonscribed; MD -18.8 minutes, 95% CI -22.3 to 19.2) with an increase in patients seen per hour (0.17 more patient per hour; 95% CI 0.02-32). Two studies reported relative value units, which increased 0.21 (95% CI 0-0.42) per patient with scribe use.

Conclusion: We found no difference in length of stay or time to disposition with a small increase in the number of patients per hour seen when using scribes. Potential benefits include revenue and patient/provider satisfaction.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Documentation / methods*
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Emergency Service, Hospital* / economics
  • Emergency Service, Hospital* / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Length of Stay
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Workforce