Posted by: kenwbudd | October 7, 2009

The Return of the Scribe – Not just for Pharoahs

These days all hospital doctors have access to electrocardiogram (ECG) machines, bedside ultrasounds and are just a hop skip and a jump away from a CT scanner and MRI machine.

Yet in thsi high tech world, Derek Leiner’s job title harks back to the days of the pharaohs, those early dictating people and papyrus scrolls. He’s known as a ‘scribe’ but he doesn’t use a quill.

Instead of pens, scribes use laptops as they walk behind the doctors,, going from bed to bed, taking detailed notes that will form part of each patient’s electronic medical record.

Experts say the scribes’ peculiar role — with one foot in 2009 and one in 2000 B.C. — illustrates hospitals’ often bumpy transition from clipboards, paper forms and closets of paper based charts, to high tech digital records.

While most other businesses scrapped their paper files decades ago, hospitals have lagged a long way behind. Several of the health reform proposals being considered would push the industry to convert to electronic records but I fear in the average physician’s practice, you are still going to see closets and filing cabinets full of paper charts – et sanctum gloria!


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