Do medical scribes help or hinder doctors in the emergency department?


  • Mary Corcoran
  • Univadis Medical News
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Medical scribes could help increase doctors’ productivity and shorten patients’ stay at emergency departments (EDs), suggest the results of a new randomised trial published in the BMJ

The trial evaluated the changes in productivity when 88 emergency physicians in five EDs in Australia used medical scribes. The physicians were randomly allocated a scribe for the duration of their shift.  

Analysis of data collected from 589 scribed shifts and 3,263 non-scribed shifts showed scribes increased physicians’ productivity from 1.13 (95% CI 1.11-1.17) to 1.31 (95% CI 1.25-1.38) patients per hour per doctor, a 15.9 per cent increase (P<.001 the increase was greater for primary consultations although there no change in door-to-doctor time median length of patient stay reduced by minutes when a scribe present. significant harm involving scribes reported.>

The authors said that given the previously expressed strong preference of physicians for working with a scribe, the minimal risk involved, no impact on patient experience and the productivity and throughput gains outlined, “emergency department and hospital administrators should strongly consider the potential local utility of scribes in their workforce and financial planning."