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An economic evaluation of the costs of training a medical scribe to work in Emergency Medicine


Objective To undertake a cost analysis of training medical scribes in an ED.

Methods This was a pilot, observational, single-centre study at Cabrini ED, Melbourne, Australia, studying the costs of initiating a scribe programme from the perspective of the hospital and Australian Health sector. Recruitment and training occurred between August 2015 and February 2016 and comprised of a prework course (1 month), prework training sessions and clinical training shifts for scribe trainees (2–4 months, one shift per week) who were trained by emergency physicians. Costs of start-up, recruitment, administration, preclinical training, clinical training shifts and productivity changes for trainers were calculated.

Results 10 trainees were recruited to the prework course, 9 finished, 6 were offered clinical training after simulation assessment, 5 achieved competency. Scribes required clinical training ranging from 68 to 118 hours to become competent after initial classroom training. Medical students (2) required 7 shifts to become competent, premedical students (3) 8–16 shifts, while a trainee from an alternative background did not achieve competency. Based on a scribe salary of US$15.91/hour (including 25% on-costs) plus shift loadings, costs were: recruitment and start-up US$3111, education US$1257, administration US$866 and clinical shift costs US$1137 (overall cost US$6317 per competent scribe). Physicians who trained the clinical trainee scribes during shifts did not lose productivity.

Conclusions Training scribes outside the USA is feasible using an on-line training course and local physicians. It makes economic sense to hire individuals who can work over a long period of time to recoup training costs.

Trial registration number ACTRN12615000607572.

  • comparitive system research
  • cost effectiveness
  • emergency care systems, efficiency
  • emergency department
  • education, teaching

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