Comparing Scribed and Non-scribed Outpatient Progress Notes

Picture of Haley Dusek
Haley Dusek
Picture of Isaac Goldstein
Isaac Goldstein
Picture of Michael Chiang
Michael Chiang
Picture of Michelle R Hribar
Michelle R Hribar
Published at Ophthalmology Science 2021
Teaser image


Purpose Observe the impact of employing scribes on documentation efficiency in ophthalmology clinics. Design Single-center retrospective cohort study. Participants A total of 29,997 outpatient visits conducted by seven attending ophthalmologists between 1/1/2018 and 12/31/2019 were included in the study; 18,483 with a scribe present during the encounter and 11,514 without a scribe present. Intervention Use of a scribe. Main Outcome Measures Total physician documentation time, physician documentation time during and after the visit, visit length, time to chart closure, note length, and percent of note text edited by physician. Results Total physician documentation time was significantly less when working with a scribe (mean ± SD, 4.7 ± 2.9 vs. 7.6 ± 3.8 minutes/note, P<.001), as was documentation time during the visit (2.8 ± 2.2 vs. 5.9 ± 3.1 minutes/note, P<.001). Physicians also edited scribed notes less, deleting 1.9 ± 4.4% of scribes’ draft note text and adding 14.8 ± 11.4% of the final note text, compared to deleting 6.0 ± 9.1%(P<.001) of draft note text and adding 21.2 ± 15.3%(P<.001) of final note text when not working with a scribe. However, physician after-visit documentation time was significantly higher with a scribe for 3 of 7 physicians (P<.001). Scribe use was also associated with an office visit length increase of 2.9 minutes (P<.001) per patient and time to chart closure of 3.0 hours (P<.001), according to mixed-effects linear models. Conclusions Scribe use was associated with increased documentation efficiency through lower total documentation time and less note editing by physicians. However, the use of a scribe was also associated with longer office visit lengths and time to chart closure. The variability in the impact of scribe use on different measures of documentation efficiency leaves unanswered questions about best practices for the implementation of scribes, and warrants further study of effective scribe use.