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Scribes can help to prevent patient safety errors

Most Americans are now aware of the hazards associated with distracted driving. When a motorist takes his or her focus off the task of driving, the likelihood that a collision will occur increases significantly. The plague of distracted driving is not unlike distracted practice of medicine. When physicians are distracted away from what is happening with their patients, the likelihood of medical errors increases.

One tool that some hospitals and other healthcare facilities are currently employing in order to cut down on distraction-related errors is the use of medical scribes. Scribes tend to shadow physician interaction with patients, writing down important patient history information, jotting down notes that the physician wishes to remember and recording other important patient-related data. Their presence allows physicians to give patients their undivided attention.

This undivided attention permits physicians to focus on the larger picture while scribes note the details. Therefore, no key information is missed during patient interaction and all relevant data can be revisited post-interaction without fear of losing big-picture focus in the moment. In this way, scribes can help to prevent diagnosis-related errors, medication errors and patient history errors simply by paying attention to the details as physicians observe the patient overall.

Medical errors are pervasive throughout the U.S. healthcare system and are often both preventable and deadly. It is critical that healthcare facilities increase their usage of tools like scribes designed to prevent medical errors and ensure a safer experience overall for patients. In an era in which preventable medical errors are being cited as the third leading cause of death for American adults, there is simply no excuse for facilities to refrain from utilizing tools like scribes.

Source: New York Times, “A Busy Doctor’s Right hand, Ever Ready to Type,” Katie Hafner, Jan. 12, 2013

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