How Penn uses medical assistants to tackle MyChart messages

Philadelphia-based Penn Medicine reduced patient portal messages to physicians by having medical assistants triage the communications.

Instead of turning to registered nurses to sort the glut of MyChart messages from patients, Penn Family Care, a practice in Philadelphia with more than 60 clinicians, handed the task to certified medical assistants, according to a May study in Annals of Family Medicine. Many health systems are already facing a nursing shortage.

The result was a 40% drop in MyChart messages going directly to primary care physicians. Medical assistants were also able to respond to the queries faster, with a two-business-day response rate of over 92% (compared to 85% for physicians). The medical assistants also indicated they enjoyed the work, while most patients accepted the team-based approach.

"We recommend consideration of a CMA- rather than an RN-driven model in settings where RN staffing limits implementation of a team-based approach to electronic patient messages," the researchers concluded. "We encourage practices in which PCPs manage messages to adopt a team-based care model to support practice and clinician efficiency."

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