Primary care using NPs and PAs to reach patients with virtual visits

Doctor with computer and gadgets
Primary care practices are combining the use of physician extenders and telehealth.

There’s a new way that some primary care practices are using nurse practitioners and physician assistants—having them reach out to patients with virtual visits.

One health network that is using the combination is Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, where it has been so successful the clinic is seeking more NPs and PAs with telehealth experience, according to Medical Economics.

“Healthcare is changing rapidly, and we want to be able to meet (primary care) patients in their homes and assisted living,” Karen Fickel, M.D., medical director of the Virtual Clinic Core of the health network told the publication. The clinic has allowed the network to monitor patients remotely for more than 10 years, but the network wants to add more practitioners, she said.

Some primary care practices are using NPs and PAs to monitor patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma. Virtual visits are also being used for patients who have difficulty getting to the doctor’s office, such as those in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, the report said.

Telehealth visits also help reach patients who wouldn’t otherwise visit their primary care providers, allow doctors to keep tabs on their sickest patients by having NPs or PAs do weekly check-ins, and can keep patients out of the hospital if problems are caught early. 

Physicians thinking of employing NPs or PAs to conduct telehealth visits should know the rules, regulations and restrictions for telehealth in their state, Jeremy Young, M.D., assistant professor and medical director of telehealth at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told the publication.

Currently 29 states and the District of Columbia have laws that allow insurance reimbursement for telehealth, and rules vary by state regarding use of physician extenders. States across the country have eased scope of practice laws that allow NPs and PAs to care for patients independently.

With a broader focus on expanding telehealth services to more patients, the majority of state medical boards around the country view regulations about providing remote care as a top priority in the coming year.