The Health Care Provider You Need to Know
● By Sandy Kauten
With more than 11 million newly insured Americans, an aging baby boomer population and a growing number of chronic conditions, the American healthcare system is expected to make some major changes to accommodate the increasing number of people seeking healthcare.
In the past, your physician was probably the only provider you saw regularly, but as healthcare delivery has evolved, newer types of providers are taking on important roles in healthcare teams, which are delivering higher quality and more efficient care. Team-based medicine is the next generation of healthcare delivery and one of the professions at the forefront of this trend is physician assistants or PAs.
Many people have seen and been treated by a PA whether they know it or not, but unless you’ve seen a PA as your primary care provider, you might be surprised to know that PAs are fully licensed medical providers with graduate degrees. They diagnose and treat their own patients by prescribing medications, ordering and interpreting tests, performing medical procedures and even assisting in surgery. They can be found throughout healthcare from hospitals to urgent care clinics to ERs, as well as in your family provider’s office.
“PAs are uniquely equipped as medical practitioners and play an important role in today’s healthcare system,” said Jeff Katz, PA-C, DFAAPA. “For nearly 50 years, PAs have improved patient outcomes and elevated patient satisfaction. There is a wealth of clinical research and real-world evidence from hospitals and patients, demonstrating the high-quality and breadth of PA care.”
With all of this, it is no surprise that PAs are among the most in demand professions in the United States. In a recent American Academy of Physician Assistants survey conducted by Harris Poll, a Nielsen company, 91 percent of respondents agreed that PAs improve health outcomes for patients and 91 percent agreed PAs improve the quality of healthcare. In addition, according to national health care search firm Merritt Hawkins, demand for PAs has increased by more than 300 percent over the last three years, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of PAs to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2022.
As you consider alternative approaches for a healthcare provider, keep this advice in mind:
Find a provider that has the right education and training. Educated through intense, graduate-level medical programs that include at least 2,000 hours of clinical practice, PAs are often educated alongside medical students in medical schools and academic medical centers. They gain the skills necessary to perform medical procedures, diagnose and treat patients, order and interpret tests, prescribe medication, make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes, and assist in surgery.
Feel good about checkups, testing and surgery. Seek a provider who can answer a wide range of healthcare needs. PAs practice medicine in all medical and surgical settings and specialties, including primary care, emergency medicine, surgery, oncology, orthopedics, psychiatry, radiology, pediatrics and more.
To learn more about PAs and how they can assist with your health care needs, visit aapa.org.