Your Ophthalmology Practice Needs a Scribe

Your Ophthalmology Practice Needs a Scribe

In the past, ophthalmologists and other medical doctors could focus almost exclusively on patient care. With the widespread implementation of electronic medical records, many physicians have found their workload weighed down with more record-keeping than ever, leaving them with less time to spend with patients. The amount of time spent on updating records and making sure they meet all compliance standards is a drawback for busy doctors.

To help alleviate this burden, many practices hire a scribe…and if you haven’t yet, you should.

What is a Scribe?

A scribe takes written notes of each ophthalmology exam. This can be done during the exam or after the exam based on the doctor’s dictated summary. A scribe also records the patient’s information, the doctor’s observations and any care plans. A scribe may also assist in other administrative duties such as scheduling.

The position of scribe is a relatively new and growing addition to the field. One expert estimates that in the mid-1980s, only half of all eye care practices hired a scribe; three decades later, she estimates that the figure has grown to about 80%.

What are the benefits of hiring a scribe?

  • Scribes free up doctors’ time, allowing them to see more new patients and spend more time with existing patients.

One study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that the doctors who used scribes were able to see about 10% more patients than those who did not use scribes.

  • Scribes protect the doctor by acting as witnesses to doctor-patient interactions.

Their documentation on each examination can help to clear a doctor from unfounded accusations and unwarranted lawsuits.

  • Scribes increase revenue due to increased efficiency and the ability to see more patients.

The NCBI study found that doctors who used scribes generated an additional $24,257 in revenue. The increase is attributed in part to the scribes’ production of higher level clinical notes. In this study, a cost of $99,000 for employing scribes resulted in additional revenue of $1.4 million!

Who becomes a scribe?

Scribes are usually on the job trained so anyone with a high school diploma can become one. In ophthalmology, in order to comply with any present or future state or federal requirements, we recommend that a scribe becomes OSC certified. In addition, there are organizations such as the American College of Medical Scribe Specialists and Scribe America that offer scribe training and certification.

Some pre-med students or others hoping to enter the medical field become scribes to gain experience through shadowing physicians. Working as a scribe can help them learn more about being a doctor in their chosen specialty. For some medical professions, hours spent working as a scribe can count toward clinical training hours.

Are there any downsides to hiring a scribe?

As with any employee, there are both costs and risks involved with hiring a scribe. However, the benefits of time saved and new revenue generated typically far outweigh the cost.

According to PayScale, the average pay for a medical scribe was about $12 an hour as of January 2016. This is about $5 an hour less than the average medical transcriptionist salary and a scribe typically handles more of the doctor’s workload than a medical transcriptionist.

What personality traits should be considered when hiring a scribe?

When hiring a scribe look for candidates who get along well with your administrative staff, your physicians and the patients they will interact with on a regular basis. Good candidates will also have these attributes:

  • Attention to detail
  • Computer proficient
  • Excellent written and verbal communication
  • Good office and administrative skills
  • Fast typist
  • Organized
  • Ability to multitask
  • Legible handwriting
  • Responsible
  • Confident
  • Punctual

Hiring a scribe can help take your practice to the next level – increasing efficiency, productivity, revenue and patient satisfaction. If you have questions about hiring a scribe or other ways to elevate your practice, contact us today!