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    Is your scribe raising your risk of a malpractice lawsuit?

    Proper background checks, specialty training reduce likelihood of documentation errors


    Conduct proper background checks

    Lastly, proper background checks and training of all hired scribes cannot be understated. As aforementioned, a scribe is only required to have a high school diploma. This level of education in a medical setting, particularly a highly specialized area such as urology, sets the bar low for documentation errors in the records, which ultimately belong to the physician. Training in the particular medical specialty or subspecialty that the scribe will be working in will not only reduce the likelihood of documentation errors, but it will save the physician time when he or she is reviewing all of the scribe’s documentation to authenticate the note.

    Read: Transplanted kidney found to be cancerous; patient sues

    Furthermore, some clinicians in training take on scribe roles to assist with their education, studies, and development prior to taking board exams. It is incumbent on the provider to ensure that the scribe is working as a scribe, not as a medical student or physician assistant in training. A case in Florida awarded over $200M to a plaintiff who was assessed by an unlicensed PA in an emergency department, and was represented as a scribe (bit.ly/Scribemalpractice).

    Scribes absolutely bring positive attributes to the practices in which they work. Indeed, a 2010 study found that urologists were more satisfied during office hours when they had a scribe and they reported a decrease in difficulties with documentation (J Urol 2010; 184:258-62). However, in an area of medicine that remains the “Wild West” in terms of regulation, educational prerequisites, background, and training, it is in every physician’s best interest to choose scribes selectively, train them, and ensure the quality of their work. After all, there is no scribe malpractice, only professional malpractice, and the scribe is unlikely to have a day in court.

    More Malpractice Consult:

    Telephone triage can jeopardize patient safety, lead to litigation

    Missed kidney cancer diagnosis leads to death, legal action

    How surgical time-outs may (or may not) lower litigation risk

    Subscribe to Urology Times to get monthly news from the leading news source for urologists.

    Brianne Goodwin, JD, RN
    Ms. Goodwin is manager of clinical risk and patient safety at Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge, MA.


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