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    Combating the impending physician shortage

     

    A Team Approach

    The AAMC’s third approach to handling the problem concerns a team approach to care.

    “As physicians work with nurse practitioners, physician assistants, dieticians and pharmacists, there is some component of the care that can be transferred from the physician to the others who are appropriately trained,” Orlowski says. “They are a large part of increasing access to care for underserved populations in both urban and rural areas.”

     

    Further reading: Top 9 insights into the financial status of PCPs today

     

    Dawn Morton-Rias, Ed.D, PA-C, president and CEO of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, notes the PA profession grew by approximately 35%, and agrees with the AAMC that PAs can assist with the physician shortage.

    “Certified PAs routinely have their own panel of patients in busy primary care practices, allowing overloaded physicians to spend more time on the most complex patients,” she says. “What makes certified PAs increasingly valuable are their strengths in patient assessment, management and education, care coordination and continuity of care—time-consuming services that pay off in terms of patient adherence to treatment, reduced visits to the emergency room and even decreased hospital readmissions.”

    Benjamin Reynolds, director of the office of advanced practice providers at UPMC, a 20-plus hospital system with more than 3,500 employed physicians located in Pittsburgh, Pa., says a patient doesn’t necessarily need to see a physician for most problems, and that having a physician see routine, low-complexity issues isn’t a good use of their time. 

    “Promoting interprofessional team-based care, where all healthcare professionals are used at their maximum scope of practice carries the greatest promise of improving access to high-quality health care,” he says.

    For internal medicine and family practitioners specifically, there has been an increase in providers employing nurse practitioners and physician assistants more extensively as a way to pick up some of the slack left from the physician shortage.

    Keith Loria
    Keith Loria is a contributing writer to Medical Economics.

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