One Year of Family Physicians' Observations on Working with Medical Scribes

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Abstract

Purpose:

The immense clerical burden felt by physicians is one of the leading causes of burnout. Scribes are increasingly being used to help alleviate this burden, yet few published studies investigate how scribes affect physicians' daily work, attitudes and behaviors, and relationships with patients and the workplace.

Methods:

Using a longitudinal observational design, data were collected, over 1 year, from 4 physicians working with 2 scribes at a single academic family medicine practice. Physician experience was measured by open-ended written reflections requested after each 4-hour clinic session. A data-driven codebook was generated using a constant comparative method with grounded theory approach.

Results:

A total of 361 physician reflections were completed, yielding 150 distinct excerpts; 289 codes were assigned. The 11 themes that emerged were further categorized under 4 domains. The most frequently recurring domain was clinic operations, which comprised 51.6% of the codes. Joy of practice, quality of care, and patient experience comprised 22.1%, 16.3%, and 10.0% of the codes, respectively.

Conclusions:

Our study suggests that integrating scribes into a primary care clinic can produce positive outcomes that go beyond reducing clerical burden for physicians. Scribes may benefit patient experience, quality of care, clinic operations, and joy of practice.

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