DiversityNursing Blog

Should you hire a Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant before a physician?

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Fri, May 17, 2013 @ 12:46 PM

The U.S. is currently seeing a physician shortage that will only continue to rise and affect medical practices all over the country. By 2020, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) estimates there will be a shortage of more than 90,000 physicians, and that number will grow to 130,000 by 2025.

To solve this problem, many healthcare providers are turning to Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and Physician Assistants (PAs). While many people believe NPs and PAs are unable care for patients as well as physicians, studies have found that to be untrue.  Victoria Garment, editor at SoftwareAdvice.com--a website that presents reviews and ratings of healthcare technology-- explains:

“Decades of studies have demonstrated that, when permitted to practice to the full extent of their training, NPs and PAs can perform a majority of the tasks that physicians do while providing the same quality of care.”

These tasks can include performing physical exams, diagnosing and treating conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, writing prescriptions, order diagnostic tests and more. Additionally, “while PAs cannot practice independently of physicians, there are approximately 250 practices across the U.S. that are run solely by NPs,” Garment said.

Another benefit of hiring NPs and PAs is the significant cost savings:

  • Reduced salary expenses - The average base salary of a physician is more than double that of NPs and PAs.
  • Lower overhead costs - Studies show PAs require lower overhead costs than physicians by department, patient demographics and medical care resource use, resulting in a $30,000 boost to the bottom line.
  • Lower costs of care - The costs of NP-managed practices have been found to be 23 percent below physician-managed practices. This can lead to statewide savings of $4.2-$8.4 billion.
  • Higher patient volumes - Another study found that adding an NP to a practice can double patient numbers and boost yearly revenue by $1.65 million per 100,000 enrollees.
  • Reduced insurance and liability costs - Not only is a PA’s liability risk cost one-third of a physician’s, but NPs also have much lower rates of malpractice claims and lower costs per claim.

What’s more, patients often report having an equal or even better experience with an NP or PA compared to a physician. A survey by Medscape found that 80 percent of patients felt NPs “always” listened while carefully compared to 50 percent of physician patients. Similarly, the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research released a report that said PA patients ranked their satisfaction levels between 89 to 96 percent for the quality of care they received in the areas of interpersonal care, confidence in the provider and understanding of patient problems.

With all the benefits that NPs and PAs bring, they can be a great addition or alternative to any medical practice, especially those experiencing physician shortages.

To read the full report on The Profitable Practice blog, visit: “Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants: Why You Should Hire One (or the Other).”

Topics: physician, physician assistant, AAMC, costs, liability, nurse practitioner

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