Company Provides Doctors With Personal Scribes

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Michael Murphy was in the 1st Ranger Battalion, an Army Commando unit, from 1997 to 2000. As part of his cross-training as a medic, Murphy was given the chance to work at Savannah Memorial Hospital in Georgia. He remembers seeing a doctor save a life for the first time. “I thought, it’s cool to blow things up, but this is a cool thing to do for the long term,” remembers Murphy. So he decided to become a doctor.

While studying pre-med at UC Santa Barbara, Murphy encountered a doctor who was trying to start what he called a “scribe” program. Though the term evoked an image of a medieval monk sedulously copying Aristotle, in the medical context a scribe was someone who shadowed a doctor–taking down notes, updating patients charts, and generally freeing the doctor to worry more about medicine and less about paperwork. Though the idea of the doctor’s scribe was not entirely new–Murphy says that the PubMed database references them as early as the ?60s–it was far from widespread. In 2002, Murphy met his business partner Louis Moreno, and the two soon formed ScribeAmerica, a company that trains, manages, and supplies scribes.

Murphy remembers first pitching Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, California. “We begged them to let us in the door,” he says. In an initial trial, only five of 20 physicians signed up to use scribes. But after just a single quarter of data–which revealed how much more efficient and happy those five doctors had become–fully 19 of 20 signed up. “We’ve been with them ever since,” says Murphy. ScribeAmerica began hiring and expanding, first into Florida, then Maryland, Texas, and other states.

The timing was auspicious, and ScribeAmerica was poised to ride the coming wave of health care reform. New health care legislation was–and still is–in the process of incentivizing hospitals to implement electronic health records. The move should benefit health care in the long term, by making data retrieval and transfer much simpler. But in the short term, says Murphy, the first thing doctors have noticed is that electronic health records mean more time spent entering data.

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