How technology is helping doctors spend more time with patients, less time with paperwork

The next time you’re at the doctor’s office, it might not be just you and your doctor involved in the conversation.

A medical scribe also could be listening in thanks to new technology that uses Google Glass, the headgear that looks like a pair of glasses, but is connected to the Internet.

It’s touted as a timesaver for doctors, who spend as much as 35 percent of their day on recordkeeping. Proponents also say it’s a better way for doctors to build relationships with their patients because they can look them in the eye instead of down at computer screens or a clipboard to check and update records.

With the software, made by Augmedix, doctors put on a pair of Google Glasses, which have a camera and microphone built in, and are able to interact with their patient’s medical records with simply their voice. During the visit, a medical scribe watches and listens in.

The scribe, trained to work with a particular practice, can answer the doctor’s questions about a patient’s history, for instance, and, once the exam is over, help ensure the records for that day’s visit are complete.

For doctors, the technology allows for hands-free recordkeeping as they direct medical record updates with simply their voice. Doctors must approve any records before it becomes part of a patient’s permanent record.

The service also complies with HIPAA requirements. According to an article for Stanford University’s medical school, patients sign off that they want to use the service before they meet with the doctor. Nearly 100 percent of patients agree, said Pelu Tran, the company co-founder who was a Stanford medical student when he launched the company.

Scribes for Augmedix work from offices in San Francisco and India in sealed-off rooms and must leave pens, paper, smartphones and other belongings outside, according to an article in the Washington Post.

The company is growing by leaps and bounds with big customers – Dignity Health, Sutter Health, and TriHealth, among them – and big investments. So far, funding has totaled more than $60 million, according to an article in Medscape.

At the Consumer Technology Association 2017 Digital Health Summit in January, Augmedix cofounder and CEO Ian Shakil called Google Glass the “stethoscope of this century,” according to the Medscape article.

And it’s expected to help fuel the medical scribe industry. By 2020, a report in JAMA estimates that doctors will employ about 100,000 scribes or one scribe for about every nine doctors. There were about 20,000 medical scribes in 2014.

As the technology and acceptance grows, it could be a boon for patients and doctors. Patients get more focused, one-on-one time with their doctors.

But, for doctors, overwhelmed with recordkeeping requirements, it could make an even bigger difference. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that for every one hour spent with patients, doctors spend another three to four hours on computer and clerical work, leading to burnout.

With technology like Google Glass and Augmedix, they could be spending more time with their patients – and much less time on the paperwork.