A Conversation with Dr. Cody W. Wendlandt

Family Medicine Physician
Co-Founder and Medical Director at Elite Medical Scribes

We’ve been hearing that the need for assistance within the Family Medicine practice is greater than ever. Why is this the case?

Family medicine providers across the nation are burned out, seeing more than 20 patients per day, with a new patient every 20 minutes. The administrative burden of documentation, ensuring meaningful use, and quality metrics, is killing primary care. The extra responsibilities that come with these new models of care are falling heavily on family medicine providers – arguably more so than some other medical specialties. 

So how can a scribe program help address this situation?

Scribes can enhance a physician’s practice in many ways. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine published an article stating that “Available evidence suggests medical scribes may improve clinician satisfaction, productivity, time-related efficiencies, revenue, and patient– clinician interactions.”

As well, a published report that was featured in Becker’s Hospital Review promoted the fact that utilization of a scribe program can improve physician satisfaction and provide greater “joy in practice.” The article outlined innovations found in high-functioning physician practices across the country, including sharing clerical tasks by using scribes for collaborative documentation.

It’s a proven formula and supports what we, as clinicians and health systems, are striving for: the quadruple aim of positive patient experience, enhanced population health, reducing cost, and achieving provider satisfaction. Utilizing scribes within the healthcare system is effective at achieving these goals and is expected to soon become a standard of care. 

Every organization is unique. What differentiates Elite?

One of the main differentiation points Elite Medical Scribes has had over the years is that our expertise covers both medicine and business. In addition, many of our manager-level employees are former scribes. I am a former scribe. With this firsthand knowledge of the industry, we know what it takes to be a great scribe. This allows our organization to perform the best recruitment, oversight and training necessary for our scribes to be successful. 

As an example, our medical scribe training program, the Elite Academy, has a Family Medicine track, which is specifically tailored for the unique needs of a scribe in that field. We focus on the skill sets necessary to ensure that our scribes are the most effective and efficient assistants possible. This includes family medicine-specific terminology, physical examination techniques, differential diagnoses, common medications, specialty-specific ICD-10 codes, and billing and coding. Ultimately, this ensures a smoother implementation, improved workflow, and better support for our client partners.

Another factor that is unique about Elite Medical Scribes is the fact that Elite has you, a Family Medicine physician, in leadership. Why is this important?

Yes, I am a founding member of Elite, but I am not just a figurehead. I keep a healthy balance of clinical and administrative duties, to ensure that I am an effective healthcare executive while maintaining a solid grasp on the day-to-day struggles of a physician in the trenches. As a Family Medicine physician, I am available to address specific problems or concerns that other healthcare providers may have. Our team is willing and available to talk these over with our partners. Having physician leadership within the organization really does help us balance medicine and business.

What’s the ideal relationship you strive for between Elite and its clients?

We want a relationship with our clients like a primary care provider has with their patients. A Family Medicine doctor is a friend that you’ve known for years in whom you can confide. We know our Family Medicine doctor “from the cradle to the grave.” At Elite, we grow with our client partners in a similar fashion. We want to help with their life’s struggles as they arise and come up with a solution together. We want to build relationships for the health of both our organizations. In essence, Elite operate like a primary care physician’s office – the go-to quarterback who can help solve or advise on many different issues – including workflow, billing and coding, patient satisfaction, and so many more!

What questions are you hearing in the field from Family Medicine practices who are considering implementing a scribe program?

Within primary care, one concern that has come up is uncertainty about the cost of scribes. With new payment models on the horizon, I ask Family medicine providers, “How can’t you afford to have a scribe?” The return on investment with a scribe can be realized by seeing one or two additional patients per day – an easily achievable goal. In addition, scribes reduce the amount of paperwork for clinicians, allowing them to better serve the patients. This results in higher patient satisfaction and medical outcomes. Scribes also make for a happier physician, allowing them to leave the office on time. In return, healthcare providers become more effective at their jobs as their burnout rate is reduced.

Another question we get is whether patients will accept another person – the scribe – in the examination room. It’s a valid concern, as we’ve known some of our patients for years. However, our research and experience have shown that this issue is null when a scribe program is well-implemented. The patient’s overall experience is oftentimes so dramatically improved through greater access and physician focus, that any hesitations about adding in-room assistants quickly vanishes.

cody wenlandtCody W. Wendlandt, M.D. is a Family Medicine physician, co-founder and Medical Director at Elite Medical Scribes. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of St. Thomas and a doctorate in medicine from St. George’s University. He served as a medical scribe and scribe trainer prior to attending medical school, affording him a unique understanding of the physician-scribe relationship. Dr. Wendlandt has a proven talent in balancing business and physician outreach, while ensuring that all scribes meet Elite’s precise compliance and medical education standards. He is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians and his professional interests include clinical workflow, rural medicine, and emergency medicine.

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