PAs, advanced practice nurses key to population health management

Before Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago could fully leverage advanced practice nurses and physician assistants to improve care delivery, hospital leaders first had to educate their medical teams about the role APNs could play in their efforts to better manage population health. 

The hospital wanted to use PAs and APNs as it changed its care model to "embrace" population health, Donna King, vice president of clinical operations and chief nurse executive, told Health & Health Networks in a video interviewYoung nurses were interested in becoming APNs, but weren't totally prepared to move directly into the role, she said. The hospital, too, needed to get a better handle on what it would mean to shift more caregiving to PAs and APNs, she said.

Caregivers were familiar with the PA role, but less clear about what APNs could do, King said. Part of the transition's team role was to educate physicians about how both positions could help maximize care delivery. The process also involved standardizing infrastructure and protocols to improve efficiency, as well as standardizing guidelines for practicing privileges and for assessing competency. This type of care model is the "wave of the future," King said.

Integrating these advanced practitioners into care teams also improves patient satisfaction, Dawn Morton-Rias, president and CEO of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, has said.

PAs can usually see walk-in patients more quickly than doctors, reducing wait times. They can take the lead on developing and managing preventive health and wellness programs, Morton-Rias says, as well as help manage the home care of chronically ill patients, reducing hospitalizations.

In some states, practice guidelines restrict advanced practitioners' ability to practice. Another potential roadblock is that there aren't enough nurse practitioners and PAs to fully offset the shortage of primary care physicians, research has shown.

For more:
- watch the H&HN interview