HealthDay News — Scribes can reduce time spent on documentation and improve dermatologist satisfaction, according to a research letter published online in JAMA Dermatology.

Vinod E. Nambudiri, MD, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues implemented a multipractice quality improvement pilot program to assess the impact of medical scribes on dermatologist documentation time and physician satisfaction. Beginning in February 2016, 12 dermatologists received scribe support in 19 weekly half-day general dermatology sessions. Scribes underwent dermatology-specific classroom training. Department members completed pre- and post-implementation surveys to assess physician satisfaction and clinical workflow.

The researchers found that respondents were interested in scribes, anticipating reduced documentation burden and increased job satisfaction; they were unsure what patients would think. Before the scribe support was implemented, dermatologists averaged 6.1 minutes of clinical documentation per patient across 690 prescribe time-audited encounters.

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Physician documentation time decreased significantly, averaging 3 minutes per patient, across 695 post-scribe visits. Scribe support was expanded by October 2016. After implementation, dermatologists reported a significant decrease in clinical documentation time and less documentation time after hours. There was improvement in dermatologists’ perceptions of scribe usefulness over baseline and stronger agreement with decreased documentation burden and increased job satisfaction. Seventy-nine percent of 19 respondents reported willingness to increase patient volume with scribe support.

“Scribes enable dermatologists to achieve real-time documentation, thereby improving physician efficiency and freeing time for scholarly, leadership, teaching, or personal pursuits,” the authors write.

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Nambudiri VE, Watson AJ, Buzney EA, et al. Medical scribes in an academic dermatology practice [published online November 1, 2017]. JAMA Dermatol. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.3658