Beyond the online marketplaces and networks of health systems seeking to meet the influx of newly insured, are the individuals who will be providing patient care. By 2020, the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that there will be a 90,000 shortage in physicians. To fill that provider gap, many are looking to the physician assistant (PA) workforce
"Currently, there are more than 93,000 PAs throughout the US whose education in general medicine prepares them to be extremely nimble, positioning them very well to address an influx of 20 million new patients entering the healthcare system," said Lawrence Herman, MPA, PA-C, DFAAPA, president of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). "PAs can perform up to 85% of the duties of physicians, including prescribing medicine, which allows us to pivot easily in diverse practice settings, bridge gaps in care and solve patient problems in this new era of healthcare. Now, more than ever, America needs PAs."
As more uninsured seek care, providers worry about the length of the wait times as well as how the demand for preventive services will impact the quality of care. Having PAs to ease the strain of physicians would help ensure efficiency of treatment.
"When Massachusetts unveiled its version of Obamacare, they saw an immediate uptick in the utilization of medical care once all the uninsured people received insurance," said
Peter Lund, MD, a Saint Vincent Hospital urologist and former president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. "There was a substantial increase, then it leveled off."
Many experts expect a similar trend in the state and federal health insurance exchanges. However, exact measures of how the Affordable Care Act will impact the way doctors see and treat patients will not be immediately known.
Around the Web
Physician Assistant Workforce Critical to Expanding Healthcare Access in Crowded US Marketplace [Digital Journal]
Primary Care Doctors, Nurse Practitioners Will be in Demand with Obamacare [MedCity News]