The impact of medical documentation assistants on process performance measures in a surgical emergency department

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Background: The administrative work of physicians, particularly documentation effort, consumes considerable time in surgical emergency departments. At the same time, the latter face an ever-growing influx of patients, leading to increasing waiting and flow times and thus patient dissatisfaction as well as overload of physicians and nurses. The deployment of medical documentation assistants, who specialize in and undertake documentation work currently performed by physicians, poses a solution to the problem. The goal of this study is to assess the impact of deploying medical documentation assistants on key performance indicators of a surgical emergency department, i.e. waiting and flow times of patients differentiated according to triage categories, utilization of physicians and time allocation of physicians. Methods: The underlying study has analysed the processes of the surgical emergency department of a major university medical centre and modelled them in a discrete event simulation. Data on patient arrivals as well as processing times in the X-ray department and the laboratory were obtained from the clinical information system, while processing times in the emergency department were recorded using time-motion studies. Though the emergency department currently does not deploy medical documentation assistants, the simulation model includes a variable number of such assistants. Results: The deployment of a medical documentation assistant frees up physician working time and decreases the waiting time and consequently the flow time of patients, in particular for standard and non-urgent patients. Adding additional documentation assistants leads to further improvements, however, with diminishing marginal returns. Under the assumption of medical documentation assistants being 35% more efficient than physicians in undertaking documentation work, one of the three physicians can be replaced in the analysed surgical emergency department with an average of 502 patient arrivals per week. Conclusions: Medical documentation assistants are a viable way of improving the performance of surgical emergency departments. Depending on the goals of the hospital, medical documentation assistants can be used for an array of measures such as decreasing patients' waiting and flow times or increasing physicians' time spent on medical treatment.




Lamprecht, J., Kolisch, R., & Pförringer, D. (2019). The impact of medical documentation assistants on process performance measures in a surgical emergency department. European Journal of Medical Research, 24(1).

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