Orthopedic Scribes

Orthopedic Scribes Improve Administrative Efficiency And Patient Satisfaction

The orthopedic field of medicine has some of the biggest challenges when it comes to dealing with administrative tasks around patient records.

Not only are there countless consultations, tests, scans, and medical reviews leading up to orthopedic surgery, but surgical and post-surgical notes are equally time-consuming.

The result of this increasing burden on orthopedic physicians is significant burnout, and their patients end up with a worse experience and long waiting lists.

Medical scribes are among the best solutions for this growing problem in orthopedic practice, but many physicians don’t fully appreciate the benefits.


Benefits Of Hiring An Orthopedic Scribe

The Arthroscopy Association of North America performed an extensive study that directly focused on the impact of medical scribes on patient care in sports medicine and orthopedics.

The study was conducted through surveys that got responses from orthopedic surgeons, nurses, and patients.

And there were a lot of very interesting findings in all three areas.

1. Benefits For An Orthopedic Doctor

The study looked at three main areas when questioning surgeons.

This was the most significant portion of the research study. Surgeons were split into two groups, with each group keeping track of the time spent on documenting patient notes after their last patient visit.

The first group had no access to medical scribes, and the surgeons were responsible for taking their own notes. In the second group, surgeons had a medical scribe allocated throughout the day to listen to each patient interaction.

For every half day of patient clinics, surgeons without access to a medical scribe spent, on average, 104 minutes documenting their notes. However, for those surgeons with access to a medical scribe, the average time was less than 25 minutes.

A further highlight of the survey was that surgeons spent 70% less time documenting notes during their clinics with the support of medical scribes.

That time saved in these two areas delivers two distinct benefits.

First of all, with less time spent documenting notes, orthopedic surgeons can see more patients during their clinic days. Having an extra 80 minutes will open up enough time for several more patients.

Secondly, because surgeons spend less time on documentation during each patient visit, they’re able to pay more attention to the needs and questions of patients. The more they don’t feel rushed, the more satisfied they will be with the service.

More on this below.

The study also found a significant positive impact on the number of patients seen during clinic hours. In the case of surgeons with no medical scribe support, the average number was 17.8.

Compared to those who had medical scribes available, the number rose to 22 patients in the exact same amount of time.

Being able to see more patients like that has a positive effect on revenue as well as reduced waiting times and patient satisfaction.

Researchers also asked the question of whether physicians felt they had enough time available for each patient interaction. It’s not only important for the patient, but the more time doctors are able to allocate to patients, the more they will learn about symptoms that can influence treatment options.

Given a scale of 1–5 (1 meaning “Strongly Agree” and 5 being “Strongly Disagree”), physicians reported a very positive impact. Those who had medical scribes to support them gave an average rating of 2 for this question.

Doctors with no medical scribe support responded with an average of 4.4. That says that almost all physicians said they strongly disagreed that they had enough time to spend with their patients if they didn’t have a medical scribe available.

The next question researchers asked was whether doctors felt they had enough time to teach medical students and trainees.

As it turns out, the time saved by having a medical scribe also translated into more time available for teaching.
Those physicians with access to medical scribes delivered an average score of 2, while those without this kind of service reported a score of 4.1.

Again, that is a large gap between agreement and disagreement in the two groups, with the only difference being the support of a medical scribe.

With orthopedic surgery being heavily dependent on trainee doctors having access to skilled surgeons, this has a significant impact on medical clinics to build up a larger supply of surgeons to deal with increasing demand.

2. Benefits For Orthopedic Patients

The next thing the study looked at is how patients directly benefit in orthopedic clinics that have medical scribes supporting physicians.

And there are two areas that stood out the most.

To assess the patient impact, researchers looked at the amount of time in minutes between patients entering an exam room and being seen by a physician.

The reason this is important is because the time spent waiting can be frustrating, especially in situations where people are waiting for important test results or preparation for orthopedic surgery.

What the patient’s responses revealed is that the average time waiting for a physician in an exam room was 19.2 minutes in clinics that didn’t have medical scribes.

For those where medical scribe services were available, the wait time was reduced to 18.6 minutes. It might not be a huge improvement, but when you see that in the context of the next statistic, it becomes a lot more important.

This is arguably the more important metric for patients, as it looks at the overall time spent waiting after their scheduled appointment time.

Because of the nature of the medical industry, there are constant unforeseen things that happen that cause delays throughout clinic hours.

Unfortunately, keeping track of medical notes is one such factor that often leads to doctors experiencing delays before they are ready for the next patient.

What researchers found is that the average time between an appointment and the surgeon’s arrival was 18.1 minutes in clinics that don’t have medical scribe support.

For those that do have this vital administrative support, the time was 15.1 minutes, which is a 15% improvement.

3. Benefits For Nurses

Another critical part of orthopedic patient care is the efficiency and effectiveness of nurses, as they play a key role both in pre and post-surgery care.

What researchers looked at were three critical areas, and the results from the survey provide a lot of insights into the impact of medical scribes.

The first thing that researchers were interested in is the amount of time between a patient leaving and completing nursing duties. A lot of those duties are tied to medical records, and the time spent on these admin duties stands out a lot when medical scribes are involved.

The results show that nurses working with a surgeon who didn’t have the support of a medical scribe needed an average of 53 minutes to complete their administrative tasks.

However, in clinics supported by a medical scribe, that time was reduced to just 14 minutes. That’s a huge reduction in admin time and makes nurses a lot more efficient and effective at supporting patients and surgeons.

Nurses were also asked about the effectiveness of communication with surgeons outside of the exam rooms to understand if there was a positive impact from access to medical scribes.

In clinical environments where a medical scribe wasn’t present, 76% of nurses agreed that communication was effective. However, in those clinical settings where there was a medical scribe available, almost 97% of nurses agreed that communication with surgeons was effective.

That’s quite a big difference and means that medical scribes free up enough time for physicians to focus more on other processes and team members to ensure that overall patient engagement delivers positive results.

The final thing that researchers asked nurses was whether they felt physicians were rushed or running late and delayed for appointments. In clinics where medical scribes supported the physicians, only 28% of nurses agreed.

But when there wasn’t a medical scribe present, 72% of nurses agreed that physicians were rushed and delayed.

Ultimately, that’s due to fewer distractions with administrative tasks, allowing doctors to see more patients in the same amount of time without constantly running behind schedule.

EMPOWER YOUR PRACTICE WITH STREAMLINED MEDICAL SCRIBING

Impact On Improved Documentation Efficiency

While the study from the Arthroscopy Association of North America didn’t research the impacts on documentation quality and accuracy, I’d like to share some information from a Stanford University study and our experience here at DataMatrix.

Accuracy Of Medical Records

Medicare guidelines for patient records indicate that the recommended timeframe between a patient visit and closing the notes in the EHR system should be no more than 48 hours.

However, due to the significant overhead burden of medical notes, many physicians struggle to achieve that guideline. Even though the importance of timely updates to patient records is highlighted in medical school, doctors working in a busy orthopedic clinic or department quickly learn how much of a struggle this really is.

What Stanford researchers found is that the time between consultations and closing patient notes was significantly lower when medical scribes were involved in the process.

It’s an expected benefit, but the improved timing and accuracy of notes have significant benefits for other areas of medical clinics.

orthopedic-medical-scribe-2

Improved Medical Billing

Delays in insurance billing often come down to missing information about the relevant treatment. And while insurance companies have different requirements for the level of detail needed, when the relevant information isn’t accurately recorded in an EHR system, then it can cause issues for billing.

For an orthopedic practice, that can mean delayed payments anywhere from weeks to months.

Inaccuracy also causes a significant administrative overhead as staff need to follow up with physicians and nurses to fill any gaps in the documentation.

Add to that multiple phone calls and emails to rectify an issue, and you can see why more accurate and timely medical notes have such a significant impact.

Fewer Delays With Prior Authorization

Another positive impact that a medical scribe provides indirectly is on the processing time for prior authorizations.

Every orthopedic healthcare practice has to deal with multiple authorizations for each patient, whether it’s to approach scans and x-rays, medication, or surgery.

When admin staff fill out prior authorization forms, they rely on the patient notes in the EHR system. When those notes are incorrect, incomplete, or not yet available, then it leads to a delay in the submission of these forms.

In addition, insurance companies will flag incorrect and incomplete information, causing multiple follow-up emails and phone calls for clinical admin staff to gather and provide all the necessary and relevant details.

These kinds of delays have a significant impact on patient satisfaction and the effectiveness of their treatment.

“Datamatrix has served as an extension to our physicians by virtually scribing for the past 4 years. This has allowed our physicians and staff to focus on patient care, while also allowing the physicians to increase volume.” ORTHONY

In-House Vs. Outsourced Orthopedic Scribe

One common question for all orthopedic clinics and departments is whether they should consider an in-house or outsourced medical scribe.

Let me show you the benefits and downsides of both options to help you better understand them.

orthopedic-medical-scribes

Pros and Cons Of In-House Medical Scribes

Hiring an in-house medical scribe has been a common approach for many orthopedic clinics and departments. It certainly has a proven positive impact (as demonstrated in the above research studies), but you have to consider this approach from all angles.

First of all, the main attraction is that you maintain full control over the hiring process, which can be an important factor for a healthcare provider. You also have full control and responsibility for training.

The benefit is that you can build a team with specific requirements and targeted training for the healthcare services you provide.
There’s also the advantage of having direct communication with each medical scribe, making it easier to fix errors and provide feedback on mistakes in medical notes.

But all of this comes at a substantial cost, and most of these benefits can still be achieved with the right outsourcing provider.

The main problems orthopedic clinics face is that when they see sudden increases in demand or medical scribes are unexpectedly out of office, then keeping the scribing support going becomes a huge challenge.

It’s not an easily scalable solution and requires multiple backup scribes to ensure physicians don’t have to resort to taking their own notes.

There are also management and expense overheads that you need to account for. A team of scribes will need to be assigned to an administrative manager. You also have to account for payroll taxes, Medicare, Medicaid, sick leave, vacation time, hiring, and training costs.

And don’t forget the costs of providing office space and equipment.

Once you factor all those downsides in, it becomes clear that this isn’t always the best approach for healthcare providers.

Pros:

  • Orthopedic clinics have full control over the hiring process
  • Design and deliver in-house training for specialized terminology
  • Direct input with medical scribes to provide feedback on errors and request corrections
  • More consistency by using the same team of scribes

Cons:

  • It’s not an easily scalable solution to deal with increased demand
  • Significant expenses for hiring, payroll taxes, vacations, and sick leave
  • Requires having back-up scribes to cover sick leave and vacations
  • Added costs for office space and equipment

Pros and Cons Of Outsourced Medical Scribes

Let’s now look at the pros and cons of outsourced scribing services for sports medicine and orthopedic clinics.

The main reason a medical practice benefits from outsourced scribing services is that it allows them to scale the service quickly and easily. Demand for the services of an orthopedic physician will fluctuate over time.

Responding to those changes in demands can be a huge challenge if you don’t have a large team of scribes with multiple backups to deal with sick leave and vacation time.

When you outsource to our team at DataMatrix, you can increase and decrease the amount of scribing services you need based on patient demand without any delays.

We have a large enough team of scribes to be able to adapt to changes in demand, making it a seamless experience for clinics of all sizes.

Outsourced scribing also limits the chances of a physician having to be the backup for scribes being out of the office, further reducing unnecessary administrative time.

From a cost and management perspective, outsourcing is a highly effective solution as you don’t have to worry about payroll taxes, Medicare, Medicaid, sick leave, vacations, or training. There’s also no need to allocate valuable office space and equipment.

Here at DataMatrix, we have built processes for hiring and training that ensure we have the most experienced scribes available, thereby limiting the chances of mistakes.

We also provide an easy way to request corrections, creating a feedback loop that is fast and effective.

Pros:

  • Outsourcing makes scalability easy and effective to better deal with demand
  • No delays due to scribes being on vacation or out sick
  • Avoid overhead costs for managing a team of scribes
  • Eliminate overhead costs for payroll taxes, vacations, and sick leave
  • No additional office space is needed, further reducing the cost burden

Cons:

  • Limited communication with the medical scribe team
  • Potentially slower responses to fix errors

Medical Scribes Vs. Transcription

Another common question that we get is in relation to whether a medical scribe or transcriptionist is the better solution for an orthopedic practice.

Let’s see how these work.

What Is The Main Difference?

Both scribes and transcriptionists deliver similar services to make life easier for a physician. By listening to audio input, they create the necessary notes in medical records, allowing the physician to focus on patient care.

The key difference is that transcriptionists will listen to recordings of consultations along with the audio input from a physician. They then transcribe that audio into medical records for physicians to review and proofread.

The scribe will focus on the medically relevant parts of the conversation, saving the physician more time by not having to dictate the relevant portions.

Scribes offer a slightly different service. They can either listen to consultations live or to a recording of it. Having an online scribe is the most effective way, as it reduces any delays in keeping medical records updated.

Physicians gain significant benefits and meaningful use from both options, but scribes tend to offer maximum efficiency gains.

Choosing The Right Service

For most orthopedic physicians, the choice between a scribe and a transcriptionist comes down to personal preferences. Some will prefer having more control and input on the exact wording, which would make dictating notes for a transcriptionist.

The reason you would choose a medical scribe is to maximize the amount of efficiency gains. Here at DataMatrix, we offer both online and offline scribes, as well as transcriptionists, making it an ideal solution for a mix of physician preferences.

Flexibility Of Having Both Services

A key advantage of outsourcing to DataMatrix is that you can assess both types of services and allow physicians to opt for the type that suits them better.

Providing that level of flexibility also allows physicians to get used to the service gradually.

Once they gain confidence in the output, they can switch to a more meaningful use of outsourced scribing with an online medical scribe.

Orthopedic Scribe Services From DataMatrix

DataMatrix is a leading provider of outsourced scribing services and our team has specialized in hiring and training scribes with the necessary skills to support orthopedic physicians. We also offer flexibility in our service options to suit the needs and preferences of doctors.

Online Medical Scribe

Our scribes can listen to patient consultations live and take all the necessary and important notes in real-time. This approach delivers maximum efficiency as it allows doctors to focus on the patient.

As soon as the consultation is finished, the notes are ready for review and proofreading, which further speeds up the business process of getting administrative tasks out of the way and completed as soon as possible.

Offline Medical Scribe

For doctors who prefer not to have a scribe listen to consultations, our team also offers offline scribing. This allows physicians to record conversations on a phone, tablet, computer, or dictation device and then send those recordings to us.

We assign those recordings to a scribe who prepares all the notes and enters them into your EHR system. It’s a slightly different business process that doesn’t result in real-time updates, but it’s still a highly efficient approach.

Whether a team of doctors prefers one or the other, DataMatrix can offer the flexibility to suit the requirements of all clients.

HIPAA Compliance

The top priority for the scribing services we provide is to ensure we are fully HIPAA compliant in all the handling of sensitive data. From the audio recordings to accessing EHR systems, we have built our business process with maximum security and compliance in mind.

We also conduct recurring staff training on all compliance requirements and updates to ensure our clients don’t take any risks with the medical data they handle.

Our approach provides maximum reassurance for all clients, as HIPAA compliance extends to all parties with access to your patient’s medical records. It’s simply not something you can take any chances with.

Call DataMatrix For A Free Consultation 

If you’d like to find out more about the scribing services we offer for orthopedic clinics and departments, then call our team today for a free consultation.

We can explain exactly how the process works and discuss how quickly you could be up and running with a far more effective and efficient approach to time-consuming admin tasks.

This one phone call could transform how your physicians work with less burnout and significantly improved face time with patients.