J Healthc Manag. 2022 Nov-Dec 01;67(6):425-435. doi: 10.1097/JHM-D-21-00329. Epub 2022 Oct 19.
GOAL: Administrative burden is one of many potential root causes of physician burnout. Scribe documentation assistance can reduce this burden. However, traditional in-person scribe services are challenged by consistent staffing because the model requires the physical presence of a scribe and limits the team to a single individual. In addition, in-person scribes cannot provide the flexible support required for virtual care encounters, which can now pivot geographically and temporally. To respond to these challenges, our health network implemented an asynchronous virtual scribe model and evaluated the program’s impact on clinician perceptions of burnout across multiple outpatient specialties.
METHODS: Using a mixed-methods, pre-/postdesign, this evaluation measured the impact of an asynchronous virtual scribe program on physician burnout. Physicians were given the Professional Fulfillment Index tool (to self-assess their mental state) and free-text comment surveys before virtual scribe initiation and again at 3-, 6-, and 12-month intervals after program implementation. Descriptive statistics of survey results and qualitative review of free-text entries were analyzed for themes of facilitation and barriers to virtual scribe use.
PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Of 50 physician participants in this study, 42 (84%) completed the preintervention survey and 15 (36%) completed all 4 surveys; 25 participants (50%) discontinued scribe use after 12 months. Burnout levels-as defined by dread, exhaustion, lack of enthusiasm, decrease in empathy, and decrease in colleague connection-all trended toward improvement during this study. Importantly, quality, time savings, burnout, and productivity moved in positive directions as well.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: The cost burden to physicians and the COVID-19 pandemic inhibited the continued use of asynchronous virtual medical scribes. Nevertheless, those who continued in the program have reported positive outcomes, which indicates that the service can be a viable and effective tool to reduce physician burnout.