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Doctors and scribes, part 2: demand is growing

In part one of this post, we discussed a new variation on an ancient role that has the potential to greatly improve the practice of medicine in the digital age.

As we noted, some hospitals around the country are creating the position of "scribe" to shadow doctors in their interactions with patients and ensure that accurate electronic records are created and maintained of those interactions.

In this part of the post, we will discuss some of the ways in which the presence of such scribes is already enabling many doctors to improve their patient care.

In recent years, computerized note-taking has tended to crowd out personal interactions between doctors and patients. The resulting lack of an overall ability to connect with patients and their personalized needs can increase the risk of misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose.

With a scribe at their side, however, doctors may be able to combine the best of the old with the best of the new.

Using electronic medical records -- instead of old-fashioned charts with a host of scarcely legible notations -- should give doctors the timely and accurate information needed to provide good medical care.

When a scribe is the one inputting and accessing the information, it frees up doctors to focus on patients. And focusing on patients gives doctors a better chance to pick up the subtle-but-often-crucial clues to health issues that only personal interaction can provide.

Using scribes to assist doctors is gaining so much interest that commercial businesses are getting involved to help fill the demand for scribes. There are already an estimated 10,000 working around the country in hospitals and clinics. And demand is still going up.

Source: The New York Times, "A Busy Doctor's Right Hand, Ever Ready to Type," Katie Hafner, Jan. 12, 2014

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