A new role in the health system could improve efficiencies in emergency departments and decrease the time patients spend in emergency departments, following a successful trial in hospitals throughout Victoria recently published in The British Medical Journal.
Scribes are trained to complete clerical data entry associated with a patient’s visit to the emergency department, allowing doctors to concentrate on core medical tasks instead.
In the first trial of its kind in Australia, locally-trained scribes were used in five hospital emergency departments across the state of Victoria, Australia [including]Cabrini Malvern. Scribes were present during the time when a patient consults with a doctor and assisted in writing up patient notes, in close consultation with the treating doctor.
Currently, Australian emergency department doctors spend nearly 50 per cent of their time typing up patient notes and undertaking other clerical tasks, taking their focus away from core medical tasks like seeing patients.
“Traditionally, a doctor’s role has been focused on patient care but since the introduction of electronic health records, we have become increasingly overloaded with documentation and clerical responsibilities that take us away from our primary duty of care for our patients,” A/Prof Walker said.
“This program has been designed to reduce the administrative workload for physicians and increase the time spent treating patients.”
A/Prof Walker said the use of scribes in emergency departments improved the productivity of emergency doctors and decreased the time spent in the emergency department for patients.
“With the assistance of scribes, doctors were able to treat 25 per cent more patients per shift, which has significant economic and social benefits,” she said. “Our research showed benefits at all of our participating sites, decreasing the total time patients spent in the emergency department by 19 minutes”.
A/Prof Walker said she hoped the research would persuade hospitals to employ scribes in Australia to support emergency physicians by enabling them to safely see more patients.