3 healthcare trends that will continue in 2017

In 2017, patients will continue to have more access to care from nurse practitioners and physician assistants, with more of that care provided in retail clinics and via telemedicine.

States across the country have eased scope of practice laws that allow NPs and PAs to care for patients independently, a trend that will continue as the professional associations that represent these healthcare workers increase their lobbying efforts, according to Forbes.

In what was seen as a major victory for NPs, the Department of Veterans Affairs published a final rule in December that will expand the scope of practice of most advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who work for the agency, allowing them to provide primary healthcare and other services to the full extent of their education and abilities without the clinical supervision of physicians.

NPs are providing care to patients at both worksite clinics and retail clinics, as 82% of large employers now include retail clinics in their health plan networks, according to an October survey from human resources consultant Mercer.

At the same time, 59% of large employers provide coverage for telemedicine services, according to Mercer.

Expanding the scope of practice for NPs and PAs is just one way to help relieve the shortage of physicians that has occurred in various parts of the country and is expected to get worse. A report from the Association of American Medical Colleges projected a continued shortage of both primary care and specialty physicians over the next decade.

Encouraging telemedicine also allows doctors and other healthcare professionals to treat patients in remote, rural areas of the country, where the physician shortage is most severe.