Allied health assistants and what they do: A systematic review of the literature
Lucylynn Lizarondo1, Saravana Kumar1, Lisa Hyde2, Dawn Skidmore2
1International Centre for Allied Health Evidence, School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide; 2South Australian Health Allied and Scientific Health Office, Adelaide, Australia
Objective: Allied health assistants (AHAs) are an emerging group in allied health practice with the potential to improve quality of care and safety of patients. This systematic review summarizes the evidence regarding the roles and responsibilities of AHAs and describes the benefits and barriers to utilizing AHAs in current health care settings.
Methods: A systematic process of literature searching was undertaken. A search strategy which included a range of electronic databases was searched using key terms. Studies which examined the roles and responsibilities of AHAs (across all allied health disciplines) were included in the review. Only publications written in the English language were considered, with no restriction on publication date. Two reviewers independently assessed eligibility of the articles. Data extraction was performed by the same reviewers. A narrative summary of findings was presented.
Results: Of the initial 415 papers, 10 studies were included in the review. The majority of papers reported roles performed by general health care assistants or rehabilitation assistants who work in multiple settings or are not specifically affiliated to a health discipline. All current AHAs duties have elements of direct patient care and indirect support via clerical and administrative or housekeeping tasks. Benefits from the introduction of the AHA role in health care include improved clinical outcomes, increased patient satisfaction, higher-level services, and more “free” time for allied health professionals to concentrate on patients with complex needs. Barriers to the use of AHAs are related to blurred role boundaries, which raises issues associated with professional status and security.
Conclusions: There is consensus in the literature that AHAs make a valuable contribution to allied health care. Whilst there are clear advantages associated with the use of AHAs to support allied health service delivery, ongoing barriers to their effective use persist.
Keywords: allied health assistants, health care assistants, rehabilitation assistants, allied health workforce
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