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Physician Assistants Key Component of Value-Based System

December 16, 2013 14:01 PM (GMT-04:00)
Healthcare News

A new survey released by the American Academy of Physician Assistants, takes a temperature check on Americans’ perception of physician assistants (PAs) as health care providers. The study, conducted by Harris Poll, included responses from 680 people who personally saw a PA or were present for the visit of someone they care for in the last year. Their findings?

  • A vast majority – 93 percent – of Americans who interacted with a PA in the last year agree they are trusted healthcare providers.
  • 91 percent of respondents also agreed that PAs improve the quality of healthcare and improve health outcomes for patients.
  • 91 percent agreed PAs will be part of the solution to address the provider shortage; and
  • 92 percent said having a PA at a practice makes it easier to get an appointment.

The survey findings come at a time when PAs may well be called upon to help meet the demands of tens of millions of Americans who are newly-insured under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And, with a shortage of physicians to handle the demand, physician assistants are one of the fastest-growing professions in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, their numbers are expected to increase 38 percent between 2012 and 2022. At present there are 187 accredited Master’s Programs for PAs across the country, with 78 more in the pipeline. Already, between 6,500 and 7,000 new PAs are joining the field every year.

Physician Assistants Are Smart Investment

Financially, having a PA in a practice or facility can be beneficial. In general, physician assistants make a fair amount less than a physician’s salary. But when a PA performs a procedure, insurance companies reimburse the facility about 85 percent of the fee, as opposed to 100 percent for an MD. Then consider that having a PA on staff to see patients simply means the practice or facility can see more patients.

But beyond economics, PAs are critical to ensuring patient satisfaction by improving accessibility to care and patient wait times. As the health care system moves away from a fee-for-service model to one of value-based services, these outcomes take on even greater importance.

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