By Matt Kuhrt
The doctor shortage and the industry shift toward value-based care have generated a trend toward broader use of nonphysician practitioners (NPPs) to provide care in team-based settings. By taking advantage of the ethnic diversity among physician assistants (PAs), care teams have an additional avenue for increasing patient access to care, according to a new report from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).
Healthcare providers have increasingly recognized the value NPPs bring to practices in terms of a cost-efficient way to help more patients. While nurse practitioners have increased in number on primary care teams, some in the industry suggest PAs represent an underused, and sometimes underappreciated, resource, as FiercePracticeManagement has previously reported.
More than half of the patients seen by PAs nationwide are covered by Medicare or Medicaid, according to NCCPA's numbers. This speaks to "the significant and positive changes that certified PAs bring to the healthcare delivery system," said Dawn Morton-Rias, the president and CEO of NCCPA, "including access to quality care for at-risk populations."
The numbers also show that more than 22 percent of PAs are bilingual. In California alone, 52 percent of PAs speak a language other than English. Greater diversity among providers has been shown to help improve access to care for diverse patient populations.
Combined with a reported median salary of $95,000 and the potential for gains in care access among vulnerable patient populations covered by Medicare, there appears to be opportunity for continued cost-efficient improvement to quality of primary care. The NCCPA also intends to use this information to promote more racial and ethnic diversity among PAs.