As technology continues to evolve and the speed at which information can be processed with technology continues to increase, it’s important to remember that the ability to process information at the human level remains virtually unchanged. The speed of technology far outpaces the speed of evolution. Despite this, technological advancements continue, and continue to change the way we live and do business.
A big point of differentiation between healthcare and many other industries is, healthcare is about people. It’s not about moving product, or hitting your number, or qualifying leads. The interpersonal relationship between doctor and patient is the nerve center for healthcare, and no amount of technology can change that. Like many other industries, technology can enhance the operational processes on the business side of that interaction, but technology will never be able to replace the doctor or the patient, or speed up human interaction.
Improving efficiency on the business side of the doctor–patient relationship means offloading responsibilities from the doctor, at a discounted expense, which is good for everyone involved: doctor is free to spend more time with his or her patients, healthcare costs [should] go down, saving patient and insurers money. Hiring trained professionals to take some of the administrative burden from the doctor is good business. But the emphasis has to be on “trained professionals.”
Dr. Alan Bank, Director of Research at the United Heart & Vascular Clinic of Allina Health in St. Paul and Associate Professor of Cardiology at the University of Minnesota says in his Wall Street Journal article In Praise of Medical Scribes, “While almost every physician I know works hard, many don’t work very smart. Physicians are highly trained and well-compensated. But as a result of the shift to electronic medical record-keeping and ever-increasing regulation and bureaucracy, we doctors now seem to spend up to half our time searching for data, typing, dictating, filling out forms and scheduling future patient visits.”
As an industry, we’re not “working smart.” The cost to have doctors perform administrative duties can be anywhere from 10-20 times the cost of a scribe or transcriptionist, and that expense contributes directly to the alarming increases in the cost of healthcare. Medical Scribe, Medical Transcriptionist and Medical Assistant are key roles in the evolving adoption of EMR, and the evolution of the healthcare industry as a whole. They are trained in the technology, and in the responsibility of the position. While they are not trained clinicians, they are trained Health Information Management specialists, which means they can do this part of the process better than a doctor. And, at 20 times less the expense, this sounds like “working smart.”
Some of the reluctance may come from doctors themselves. Physicians may need to realize that, as Dr. Banks says, while they are definitely working hard, they aren’t the best at everything. One way that doctors can work smarter is to relinquish control and embrace the transcriptionist, scribe and assistant roles, so that we can get back to the nerve center of healthcare, and have doctors focus on treating patients.