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New Trends in Healthcare: Medical Scribes & “Smart” Hospitals

Healthcare, like every other industry, is always changing. What kinds of changes will we see in the coming years? Today’s post covers medical scribes and “smart hospitals”.

To read the other posts in this 3-part series:

Medical Scribes for Electronic Health Records

hands of doctor types on laptop on desk with stethescope - telehealth and medical scribesEffective doctor-patient communication is critical for good healthcare. But Electronic Health Records (EHRs) can distract doctors away from patients as they focus on their computer screens. So what can be done to enhance the doctor-patient communication while potentially improving record accuracy? Medical scribes!

What do medical scribes do? 

Scribes are essentially “data care managers” who enter and retrieve information. Scribes work alongside a doctor in his/her office entering information in real time. Or, they work remotely entering information previously recorded by a doctor. This is a rapidly growing industry with high doctor acceptance as doctors seek help managing frequently burdensome EHRs.

What are the advantages of medical scribes?

vector image of thumbs up - telehealth and medical scribesAbove all, scribes allow doctors (and other medical professionals) to focus on the patients, not the computer. Clearly, this improves the doctor-patient communications. Furthermore, scribes can save doctors’ time, which is a precious commodity as doctors struggle to see patients in time-limited appointment slots.

What are the potential downsides of scribes?

vector image of thumbs down - telehealth and medical scribesAs in any job, scribes can make mistakes, which can negatively impact patient care. Importantly, a high school diploma is the only job requirement – no medical background needed. Moreover, there is no certification process, although scribes generally receive training. Certainly, the lack of medical training, and no required certification, can increase the risk for a scribe to misunderstand or misinterpret what the doctor has said, leading to mistakes in the EHRs.

How can scribes impact your healthcare?

In short, I think scribes are a positive addition to the medical team. I personally have experienced several frustrating appointments where my doctor focused a majority of her time on the computer, negatively impacting my appointments.

Importantly, EHRs can contain errors, whether a doctor or scribe entered the information. Therefore, regularly check your records. Ask your doctor for printouts at the end of each appointment (only if your doctor or scribe has entered information in real time). Additionally, you can review your records through your doctor’s online portal. Because errors in your record can follow you throughout your life, impacting your care, notify your doctor if you find a mistake.

For more information on EHRs, read Electronic Health Records Add to Doctors’ Stress and The Pros and Cons of Electronic Health Records.

More “Smart” Hospitals 

Technology is rapidly improving in all areas, including hospitals. Although most US hospitals use a lot of digital technologies, many don’t qualify as “smart hospitals”.

What’s a smart hospital?

doctor looks at medical data on a tablet, part of smart hospital technologyThe definition of the term smart hospital can vary. A Frost & Sullivan report on smart hospitals included a definition that helps us understand the concept: “Smart hospitals optimize, redesign, or build new clinical processes, management systems and potentially infrastructure, enabled by underlying digitized networking of interconnected assets, to provide a valuable service or insight, which was not possible or available earlier, to achieve better patient care, experience, and operational efficiency.”

Where is the technology applied?

Many places! For instance, smart hospitals invest, or will invest, in the following areas:

  • Cloud computing
  • Data analytics
  • Remote patient monitoring
  • Hygiene management
  • Pharmacy automation
  • Patient flow solutions

Why are hospitals investing in these changes?

These technologies will allow hospitals to improve the patient experience, improve the quality of patient care, reduce medical errors and reduce costs.

How will this impact you?

Certainly, technology improvements will make hospitals safer and improve patient care. But as with all technological advances, expect some bumps in the road along the way.

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