The value of scribes has not changed


“Everything the scribe does is intended to increase the quality of the exam, while decreasing the amount of physician time required to perform the exam.”
Ophthalmology Management,
October 20001

In this issue, Trevor Elmquist, DO, MBA, eloquently argues the case for why you need a scribe, or scribes, in your practice. He points out what many have been saying for some time — that electronic health records (EHR) make them an imperative. I agree with virtually everything in the article; not only that, I’m still dumbfounded it took a governmental edict, forcing most of us into the computerized chart age, to make the value of scribes so obvious.

That point became obvious to me years ago, long before I was cramming computer terminals into my exam rooms. I knew I had wanted to spread the word about scribes, and had authored (or so I thought) an article for this publication about them. I wanted to see what the article said, so I searched for the article and found it online.

Two things under the heading of full disclosure. One, I didn’t write it, I just did the editing. My longtime assistant Vickey wrote it. And two, the article appeared nearly 17 years ago. Yes, we were scribe advocates at the turn of the century.

Now, understand that my practice has always been in a somewhat isolated rural area, and except for major meetings, back then I didn’t have much interaction with other ophthalmologists. So the article wasn’t so much about whether you needed scribes or not; we just assumed most everyone used them. Our goal was to educate the reader on how to most effectively use their scribes!

I was only four years into my tiny but growing solo practice when I met Guy Kezirian, MD, at a function. I don’t remember what sparked the conversation, but it eventually led to this advice: Take your best technician, and make that person your scribe. Our practice followed his advice, much to the satisfaction of me, my staff and, most importantly, our patients. Twenty-four years later, the use of scribes has only increased. While many practices are quite content with having one scribe per physician, we’ve found that on a really busy day, two per doctor is even better, and three isn’t out of the question.

It doesn’t matter if you use the latest, greatest EHR system or still affectionately cling to paper charts. You need a scribe, and you need one now. I won’t get into the why — Dr. Elmquist’s article covers that nicely. But if you want a real blast from the past, go to the link below, or just search my name and the term “Super Scribes”. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find the knowledge and advice shared back then still applies today. OM

  1. Increasing volume with super scribes. Ophthalmology Management. October 2000. .