UMC Medical Scribe Program: Students Assisting Doctors

October 1, 2019

Medical scribes document patient visits into electronic medical records, in real time and under physician supervision, helping doctors spend less time in front of a computer and more time engaged in conversation with their patients.

University Medical Center launched a medical scribe program in 2015 as a six-month pilot project with five scribes. Today, the program has 20 scribes who assist eight physicians in UMC’s Family Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology clinics. The College of Community Health Sciences operates UMC.

“Our doctors say that with the scribe program, they can treat patient visits as just that – a visit,” said Anthony Campanelli, clinical services specialist with UMC who directs the scribe program. “They can interact more with patients and have more face-to-face contact with them.”

He said patient response to the scribe program has been positive.

According to a recent study by Kaiser Permanente, use of scribes results in lower physician documentation burden, and improved patient-physician interaction, efficiency and workflow.

Medical scribes were first introduced in the 1970s, and by 2014 there were 20,000 scribes working in the US, said Dr. Alan Blum, professor and the Gerald Leon Wallace, MD, Endowed Chair of Family Medicine at CCHS. Today, it’s estimated the scribe workforce totals approximately 100,000, he said.

“Scribes have decreased physician electronic medical record documentation time and increased physician productivity and teaching time,” Blum said.

Most of the scribes in the UMC program have been pre-medical students at UA. They receive 40 hours of training, where they learn about the role of scribes, the UMC electronic medical record, HIPAA, medical terminology, family medicine and privacy and professionalism.

Campanelli said some of the UMC scribes have gone on to the University of Alabama School of Medicine, Louisiana State University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School. He said the program makes them more competitive for medical school.

Brittney Johnson, a UMC scribe during her junior year at UA and now in medical school, said: “The scribe program is the single most important thing I did before medical school. It’s a wonderful way to learn about being a physician.”