Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants Rise in Popularity

APNurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants have long been a hugely important piece of the healthcare world. Now, with the Affordable Care Act and its impending effect of a physician shortage, Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants rise in popularity with patients at a faster rate.  

A recent article in Forbes identified some stats from two emerging studies dealing with the use of advanced practice professionals and the public’s impressions of seeing them in place of or in tandem with doctors.

The first study, published June 2, 2013, in Health Affairs journal looked at whether patients are open to more reliance on Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants in the healthcare field. A first round of questioning revealed that about half of those surveyed would prefer to see a physician as their primary care provider. But, according to the study, “ … when presented with scenarios wherein they could see a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner sooner than a physician, most elected to see one of the other health care professionals instead of waiting.”

As the Forbes article points out, this scenario will become more likely during the Affordable Care Act’s learning curve and we can expect to see Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants rise in popularity. A big conclusion drawn by the study was that “Policy makers should incorporate such evidence (that consumers are receptive to receiving care from Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners) into solutions for the physician shortage.” Easing restrictive policies in tandem with healthcare reform will go a long way to making sure everyone can see a medical professional.

Another study in the May/June issue of Journal of the American Board of Family said healthcare in general is moving towards a more collaborative, team-based style, with 60 percent of family doctors regularly working in collaboration with advanced practice professionals.

Dr. Andrew Bazemore, one of the JABF article’s authors and director of the Robert Graham Center said, “Demand for primary care is growing as our population grows and ages and as more people gain insurance coverage. Earlier research has shown that teams of professionals that include physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants can do much to meet demand for care, improve access to care, ensure patients get the full range of medical and nursing care, and have a positive impact on controlling health care costs.”

Do these studies align with what you’ve heard from patients and seen in facilities, regarding Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants rise in popularity?

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