Effect of Medical Scribes on Outpatient Oncology Visits at a Multidisciplinary Cancer Center

JCO Oncol Pract. 2020 Feb;16(2):e139-e147. doi: 10.1200/JOP.19.00307. Epub 2019 Dec 5.

Abstract

Purpose: The use of medical scribes has emerged as a strategy to increase clinic workflow efficiency and reduce physician burnout. While oncology clinics may be ideally suited to scribe integration because of the high burden of documentation, oncology-specific scribe research has been limited. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of scribe integration on clinic workflow efficiency and physician satisfaction and quality of life in outpatient oncology clinics.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective, concurrent qualitative and quantitative analysis of patient visit durations and survey data for 129 attending physicians affiliated with an academic hospital's cancer center between January 2017 and January 2019. Thirty-three physicians were paired with scribes in each physician's individual clinic or clinics.

Results: In terms of clinic efficiency, physicians with scribes had a 12.1% decrease in their overall average patient visit duration compared with their own time before receiving a scribe (P < .0001) and spent significantly less time completing charts at the end of the day (P = .04). Compared with their peers, oncologists with scribes showed a 10%-20% decrease in the duration of all patient visits. Scribes also contributed to patient care, as shown by 90% of physicians surveyed who strongly agreed that they spent less time at the computer and more time with patients; 100% of physicians surveyed strongly agreed that scribes improved their quality of life.

Conclusion: The integration of medical scribes into oncology clinics across several oncologic disciplines has the potential to reduce burnout through increasing physician satisfaction and quality of life, improving patient care, and streamlining clinic workflow.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't