How Virtual Scribe Technology Changes Lives - Cover

How Virtual Scribe Technology Changes Lives

“I just get really excited about documentation,” said no physician ever. Yet in a world of government regulations and medical records, many doctors are spending more and more time documenting in front of a computer instead of interacting with patients or spending time at home with their families.

Healthcare vendors have witnessed a rise in physician burnout and are acting fast to solve the documentation problem. Some vendors are offering a service of professional scribes. Others are enhancing speech-to-text technology, natural language processing, and ambient listening. Some vendors blend both technology and human services.

The Basics

This year, we have published eTech reports on two vendors that offer a unique blend of human intervention and technology to help doctors eliminate their pajama time: Aquity Solutions and Augmedix.

Aquity Solutions offers high-quality remote scribes who document appointments with patients. The scribes use a phone or listening device to capture the encounter in real time.

Augmedix also offers a virtual scribe service. Physicians with the service can opt to use Google Glass so that the scribe can both hear and see as well as interact discreetly with the physician. Most customers do not use that functionality, but it is available

Patients can opt out of having a scribe-assisted visit, but those that KLAS interviewed did not raise this as a concern or common occurance. Patients may even prefer virtual scribe technology because it allows the doctors to focus on the person in the room instead of the computer.

The Impact

The fact of the matter is that physicians love virtual scribe systems. Doctors can finally leave work at work and spend time with their families. Doctors sometimes use the words “life changing” to describe the impact the service has had.

Offices are also seeing an increase in patient volume. Doctors have more time to see patients because they don’t have to straddle documentation with appointments.

When the providers we interviewed bought the Augmedix and Aquity Solutions services, they expected an increase in quality of life and patient volume. What they didn’t expect was to be so satisfied with the service so quickly. A majority of customers of both vendors reported high physician satisfaction in six months or less. Some experienced that increase almost immediately. That is likely due to the impact on the quality of life and the high-quality scribes that both Augmedix and Aquity Solutions provide.

The Future

One question on some people’s minds is how documentation will evolve long-term. Natural language processing, ambient speech technology, and concierge speech technology are all progressing fields. There is a chance that those technologies could reduce the need for human intervention and thus lower costs. Young doctors are increasingly comfortable with and reliant on technology. They have used EMRs throughout medical school and their residencies. We are seeing companies like Google, Amazon, Nuance, and 3M talk about a future where doctors just speak with patients and somehow everything is automatically recorded in the EMR. That sounds like something out of Star Trek, but the technology is becoming increasingly tangible.

However, one thing is certain; the time is not yet here. At the end of the day, physicians don’t care how information is documented; they only care that the documentation is accurate. If there is any field where accuracy is important, it’s medicine. 98% accuracy doesn’t make the cut; only 100% will do. The difference of one word could mean life or death for a patient. While dictation software and AI technology exist and continue to improve, human intervention is still needed.

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