Physician Assistants and Healthcare Reform

As the culture of Healthcare changes around us each and every day, Physician’s Assistants are becoming a very important and popular player in the game. PAs can assist medical providers meet many of the goals of Reform, including patient centered, efficient, collaborative care. However, their most important attribute may be that their care is significantly cheaper to provide, than the care of a licensed Medical Doctor.

PAs, whom work independently of Doctors, are able to make clinical decisions and handle most routine cases. They also act as a door keeper of sorts, insuring that the Doctors spend the most time with the patients who need the most attention. They are especially important in closing a large gap in the Primary Care Market.

Many States, including Georgia, are working on legislation to make the powers of PAs and their affiliate Nurse Practioners (NP) clearer and more easily defined. Georgia recently enacted House Bill 303. This Bill makes it easier for a PA and NP to sign and receive pharmaceutical samples, authenticate documents, write prescriptions, and perform exams and procedures with less supervision from a licensed Doctor. Most in the Healthcare Industry hail this Bill as a step in the right direction, for allowing the use of these lower cost employees to improve the quality of the healthcare delivery system.

However, as with everything, there is a downside to PA centered Primary Care. Many people, especially the elderly, are not as trusting of PAs and NPs. They would prefer, and feel like they have a right, to see a Medical Doctor. I have had both positive and negative experiences with seeing a PA. While the negative occasions may stick out in my mind, I also remember the PAs who provided me exceptional care in a much faster and more efficient manner. At this time, in most facilities it remains the preference of the patient whether or not they will see a PA. Of course, you may have to wait a much longer time to get in to see a Doctor.

It remains to be unseen how the practice of the PA will change in the coming years. Most Doctor’s Offices, Emergency Rooms, and Surgery Centers are already using PAs in some role. This role is likely to increase in the State of Georgia in the coming years. How will you adapt your business model to meet these changes? More importantly, how will you adapt your personal care model?

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