The Impact of Medical Scribes on Emergency Physician Diagnostic Testing and Diagnosis Charting.

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OBJECTIVES: Since the widespread adoption of electronic medical records (EMRs), medical scribes have been increasingly utilized in emergency department (ED) settings to offload the documentation burden of emergency physicians (EPs). Scribes have been shown to increase EP productivity and satisfaction; however, little is known about their effects on the EP's diagnostic process. We aimed to assess what effect, if any, scribes have on EP diagnostic test ordering and their documentation of differential diagnoses.

METHODS: We conducted a retrospective cohort study utilizing a chart review to compare diagnostic practices of EPs working both with and without scribes. We analyzed the number of laboratory and radiologic diagnostic studies ordered per encounter as well as characteristics of differential diagnosis documentation.

RESULTS: Scribes did not affect laboratory studies ordered per encounter (mean 6.31 by scribes vs. 7.35 by EPs, difference -1.04; 95% confidence interval [CI] -2.34 to 0.26) or radiologic studies ordered per encounter (mean 1.49 by scribes vs. 1.39 by EPs, difference 0.10; 95% CI -0.15 to 0.35). Scribes did not affect the frequency of documenting a differential diagnosis or the number of diagnoses considered in each differential, but they were associated with higher word counts in EP differentials (mean 72.29 by scribes vs. 50.00 by EPs, mean difference 22.79; 95% CI 6.77 to 38.81).

CONCLUSIONS: Scribe use does not appear to affect EP diagnostic test ordering but may have a small effect on their documentation of differential diagnoses.





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