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Physician Assistants Continue to Increase Healthcare Access and Quality

October 09, 2019

Physician Assistants Continue to Increase Healthcare Access and Quality

By Tom Florence, EVP at Merritt Hawkins


National Physician Assistant Week is a good time to reflect on how PAs are making a growing contribution to healthcare access and quality in the United States.


First and perhaps foremost, PAs are making it much easier for Americans to obtain timely access to care. In its 2019 study of physician supply and demand, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projected that the nation would face a shortage of up to 122,000 physicians by 2032 – an unprecedented shortage that could seriously undermine patient access to care. Reflecting this trend, Merritt Hawkins’ Survey of Physician Appointment Wait Times shows that the average  time needed to schedule a physician appointment rose by 30% from 2014 to 2017.


The shortage of physicians would be much more severe, however, without the presence of a growing number of PAs, as the AAMC clearly states in its study.


Contrary to popular perception, the physician shortage will not be confined to primary care. The AAMC indicates that by 2032 the nation will have up to 55,000 too few primary care doctors but more than 77,000 too few specialists. PAs are playing an important  role in alleviating the shortage of both primary care doctors and specialists, as most PAs now practice in specialty areas. 


In addition, the proliferation of the “convenient care movement,” which is most visibly reflected in the rapid construction of urgent care centers nationwide, would be virtually impossible without the services of PAs. Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), which now see close to 25 million underserved patients a year, were early adopters of the team-based model of care and employ PAs in comparatively high numbers.


Ninety percent of patients surveyed in a study conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), said PAs make it easier to get an appointment and improve quality of care, showing that the important role PAs play has not gone unnoticed by the public.


Merritt Hawkins is proud to recruit PAs to hospitals, medical groups, urgent care centers, FQHCs and other facilities across the country.   We extend our best wishes to PAs nationwide and welcome any comments readers may have on the role PAs are playing in today’s evolving healthcare system.


Tom Florence is Executive Vice President of Merritt Hawkins, the nation’s leading physician and advanced practitioners search firm and a company of AMN Healthcare. He can be reached at tom.florence@merritthawkins.com

 


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