Implementing Resident Team Assistant Programs at Academic Medical Centers: Lessons Learned

Abstract [from journal]

Background: Excessive inpatient administrative tasks can lead to adverse consequences for residents and their patients. Furthermore, this burden has been linked to depersonalization, a major component of physician burnout.

Objective: To describe the development, implementation, feasibility, acceptability, and early outcomes of Resident Team Assistant (RTA) programs.

Methods: Three large academic medical centers created RTA programs in which administrative assistants are incorporated into inpatient medical teams. First steps included a needs assessment and driver diagram creation to identify key issues and to solidify goals. Program directors were assigned, and RTAs were hired, trained, and incorporated into inpatient teams at each institution (2003, 2016, 2018). Program leadership and institutional stakeholders met regularly to discuss development and quality assurance. Surveys and direct interviews were performed to evaluate impact and acceptability. Institutional goals in accordance to RTAs tasks were also investigated.

Results: Resident surveys and interviews have shown acceptability with RTAs completing a large percentage of resident administrative tasks while promoting time spent in direct clinical care and job satisfaction. Hospital-specific improvements have included increase in referring physician communication rate and decrease in work hour violations. The programs have maintained high feasibility and sustainability with a relatively low time commitment from leadership and cost for the institutions.

Conclusions: The RTA programs at the 3 institutions have continued to be sustained over time with perceived improvements in administrative task burden and job satisfaction for the residents. They have maintained high acceptability and feasibility in terms of effort and costs for the hospitals.