University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Publication Date


Document Type



Family Medicine | Health and Medical Administration | Primary Care


Purpose: Research in other medical specialties has shown that the addition of medical scribes to the clinical team enhances physicians' practice experience and increases productivity. To date, literature on the implementation of scribes in primary care is limited. To determine the feasibility and benefits of implementing scribes in family medicine, we undertook a pilot mixed- method quality improvement (QI) study.

Methods: In 2014, we incorporated 4 part-time scribes into an academic family medicine practice consisting of 7 physicians. We then measured, via survey and time-tracking data, the impact the scribes had on physician office hours and productivity, time spent on documentation, perceptions of work-life balance, and physician and patient satisfaction.

Results: Six of the 7 faculty physicians participated. This study demonstrated that the use of scribes in a busy academic primary care practice substantially reduced the amount of time that family physicians spent on charting, improved work-life balance, and had good patient acceptance. Specifically, the physicians spent an average of 5.1 fewer hours/week (hrs/wk) on documentation, while various measures of productivity revealed increases ranging from 9.2% to 28.8%. Perhaps most important of all, when the results of the pilot study were annualized, they were projected to generate $168,600 per year--more than twice the $79,500 annual cost of 2 full-time equivalent scribes. Surveys assessing work-life balance demonstrated improvement in the physicians' perception of the administrative burden/paperwork related to practice and a decrease in their perception of the extent to which work encroached on their personal lives. In addition, survey data from 313 patients at the time of their ambulatory visit with a scribe present revealed a high level of comfort. Likewise, surveys completed by physicians after 55 clinical sessions (ie, blocks of consecutive, uninterrupted patient appointments; there are usually 2 sessions per day) revealed good to excellent ratings more than 90% of the time.

Conclusion: In an outpatient family medicine clinic, the use of scribes substantially improved physicians' efficiency, job satisfaction, and productivity without negatively impacting the patient experience.


medical scribes, electronic medical record, family medicine, physician efficiency, job satisfaction, productivity, patient satisfaction


J Fam Pract. 2017 Apr;66(4):206-214. Link to article on publisher's website

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The Journal of family practice

PubMed ID