Columbia University Medical Center

Virtual Scribe App To Ease Doctors’ Documentation Burden

Drowning in documentation? Help is on the way in the form of Virtual Scribe, a new application now being piloted by nine physicians in ophthalmology, vascular surgery, cardiology and pediatrics. Physicians can use their smartphones to dictate into the app, which interfaces with their IDX patient schedules.

How does it work? Simply select the appropriate patient, choose the desired CROWN template, dictate and upload your voice file. That file is then sent to your Virtual Scribe team at Phoenix Medcom, which transcribes the note into structured text and free text fields, sends tasks for physician or staff review as necessary, and returns the dictated note–all typically within two or three hours. CROWN templates have also been updated as part of this process to improve user satisfaction and increase structured documentation.

So how is this different from traditional transcription services? It’s much more customizable, because notes can be transcribed as either structured or free text as directed by the provider.

“Virtual scribes are a cost-effective method to increase efficiency, reduce the burden of documentation and improve the quality of data in CROWN by having structured data for the purpose of quality reporting,” said health IT optimization specialist Kris Bhambhani.

Six of seven pilot users of Virtual Scribe who responded to a survey stated that the app alleviated some of the burden and improved the efficiency of documentation (the other responded “not sure”). The team is conducting an analysis to quantify the time saved and efficiencies gained by using Virtual Scribe.

All seven respondents reported that they were either “extremely satisfied” or “very satisfied” with Virtual Scribe. The pilot team included Brett R. Anderson, MD, MBA, assistant professor of pediatrics at CUMC, whose feedback on the Virtual Scribe app was an accolade: “This is amazing. It saves me so much time!”

Ali Andre Mencin, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at CUMC, reported that Virtual Scribe freed up his time for patients’ needs and other responsibilities. “After I started using dictation, I was no longer writing notes into the evening and I had more time to call back patients and follow-up on my CROWN tasks.”

Patricia Myriam Vuguin, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at CUMC, said the scribe app frees her from constant note-taking requirements. “I have more time to speak to the patient and at the same time, I have more elaborated assessments and discussions.”

She added, ”I do not need to spend hours after clinic over at my computer finishing electronic patient charts. Now, I can finish on time and go home.”

While the Virtual Scribe program is still being piloted, it will be rolled out to departments over the next six to 12 months. For more information on implementation and related costs, contact Kris Bhambhani at 212-304-5861, or by email at