Do Physician Assistants Help or Hurt Your Practice

Physicians Assistants

When the Affordable Care Act went into effect, it ushered an immediate influx of tens of millions of newly insured people into the healthcare system. With a shortage of doctors to meet the demand, many providers are turning to physician assistants, or PAs, to pick up the slack. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 38 percent increase in the number of PAs by 2022, raising the question of whether these newly minted healthcare workers are a help or a hindrance to a medical practice.

PAs are trained to handle many of the nuts-and-bolts procedures in a practice such as performing physical exams, ordering lab tests and prescribing medication. Degree programs follow a track similar to that of a physician program, but with a shorter time frame. Students spend a year in the classroom followed by a year in clinical rotations. Finally, they must pass a national certification exam to begin practicing under the supervision of a doctor.

Many physicians who employ a PA find that it creates a streamlined work flow, allowing them to be more productive. The PA serves as the front line by evaluating incoming patients, handling non-urgent cases themselves while turning more serious cases over to an MD for treatment. The Cleveland Clinic, one of the country’s largest medical centers, has seen an average two-hour reduction in wait time along with increased patient satisfaction since instituting a fast-track plan utilizing PAs.

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