Introduction: The use of research associates (RA) programs to facilitate study enrollment in the emergency department was initiated during the mid-1990s. The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) was an early adopting site for this model, which has experienced considerable growth and development over the past 20 years.
Methods: Our goal was to detail the Emergency Department Research Associates (EDRA) program processes developed at the URMC that has led to our program's sustainability and productivity. These processes, and the lessons learned during their development, can assist institutions seeking to establish an RA program or refine an existing program.
Results: Defined procedures for selecting, training, and monitoring EDRAs have been created and refined with the goal of maximizing study enrollment and minimizing protocol deviations. Our EDRA program functions as a paid service center for investigators, and our EDRAs engage in a variety of study-related activities including screening and enrolling patients, administering surveys, collecting bio-specimens, and making follow-up calls. Over the past two years, our program has averaged 222 enrollments/month (standard deviation = 79.93), gathering roughly 25 participants per study per month.
Conclusion: Our EDRA model has consistently resulted in some of the highest number of enrollments across a variety of recently funded, multi-center studies. Maintaining a high-quality EDRA program requires continual investment on the part of the leadership team, though the benefits to investigators within and outside the department outweigh these costs.