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Purpose: Medical scribes are charged with decreasing documentation burden associated with patient visits. Reducing time spent on documentation may afford providers the opportunity to respond to out-of-visit inbox tasks faster.
Methods: We compare changes in the time taken to address patient portal messages, prescription requests, and test results from before to after scribe implementation among scribed primary care providers (PCPs), compared with nonscribed PCPs during the same time period. We used generalized estimating equations with robust standard errors to account for repeated measures and the hierarchical nature of the data, and adjusted for provider and patient characteristics.
Results: We examined 472,411 tasks, including 27,645 tasks for 5 scribed PCPs and 444,766 tasks of 74 nonscribed PCPs. In unadjusted analyses, we found no change in time to completion for prescription refill requests, results and patient portal messages; the change in time to completion from pre to post intervention among scribed PCPs was 1.02 times that of nonscribed providers (P = .585) for prescription refill requests, 1.06 times that of nonscribed providers (P = .516) for patient portal messages, and 1.02 times that of nonscribed providers (P = .787) for results. Adjustment for provider and patient characteristics did not change these findings.
Conclusions: Our study suggests that scribes are not associated with improved time to completion of inbox messages for PCPs. While scribes seem to have many benefits, our study suggests they may not improve time to completion of out-of-visit tasks. Reducing the time to completion for these tasks likely requires other interventions targeted to achieve those outcomes.