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Trauma Surgeons Save Lives—Scribes Save Trauma Surgeons!

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With the advent of the electronic medical record, the documentation burden of the trauma surgeon has become overwhelming. To help, our trauma division added scribes to the rounding team. We hypothesized that scribe utilization would improve our documentation efficiency and offer a financial benefit to the institution. A review of trauma surgeon documentation and billing was performed at a Level I trauma center over two time periods: January to May 2014 (no scribes) and January to May 2015 (scribes). The number of notes written by trauma surgeons was obtained, as were documentation charges. Documentation efficiency was determined by noting both the hour of the day in which inpatient progress notes were written and the number of notes written after patient discharge. In the 2014 period, a total of 9726 notes were written by trauma attendings. In the 2015 period, 10,933 were written. Despite having 407 fewer trauma patient-days in the 2015 period, the group wrote 343 notes/week versus 298 notes/week (P = 0.008). More inpatient progress notes were written earlier in the working day and fewer were written in the evening. Fewer notes were written after patient discharge (12.7 vs 8.4%). A total of 1,664 hours of scribe time were used over the 5-month period, generating an expense of $32,787. The additional notes generated by scribes resulted in $191,394 in charges. Conservatively, assuming a 20 per cent charge reimbursement, the cost of the scribes was covered. The addition of scribes to the daily trauma rounding team improved note efficiency and increased charge capture at our center.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2018

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  • The Southeastern Surgical Congress owns and publishes The American Surgeon monthly. It is the official journal of the Congress and the Southern California Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, which all members receive each month. The journal brings up to date clinical advances in surgical knowledge in a popular reference format. In addition to publishing papers presented at the annual meetings of the associated organizations, the journal publishes selected unsolicited manuscripts. If you have a manuscript you'd like to see published in The American Surgeon select "Information for Authors" from the Related Information options below. A Copyright Release Form must accompany all manuscripts submitted.
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