Over 100,000 Physician Assistants (PAs) practice in the United States, performing a range of duties including routine care, treating acute and chronic illnesses, and performing minor surgeries. The National Governor’s Association (NGA) states that a PA’s education and training produces a “sophisticated and flexible medical professional who can function in many specialty areas and within many practice structures.
In fact, a typical PA will practice in two to three different specialties throughout their career, making the PA profession one of the “most versatile in the healthcare industry today.” A recent study conducted on behalf of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) found that 93 percent of those surveyed consider PAs to be trusted healthcare providers, and 91 percent agree that PAs improve the quality of healthcare. Currently, PAs can practice and prescribe medicine in all 50 states and the District of Columbia as part of a healthcare team with a physician.
However, PA scope of practice varies within each state. According to a report by the NGA, current scope of practice regulations “may not be broad enough to encompass the professional competencies of PAs.” The NGA suggests that “because of their flexibility and lower costs, PAs are often an important component of strategies to alleviate provider shortages and increase the efficiency of the healthcare delivery system.” The report recommends that states review their “existing laws and regulatory framework for PAs to ensure they aren’t antiquated, unduly narrow, or overly burdensome on the professional, and that they’re not restricting the future supply of PAs.” Such recommendations include increasing educational opportunities for PAs, expressly incorporating PAs into the definition of healthcare provider, and creating financial incentives encouraging PAs to practice in rural or other underserved areas.
Robert M. Wah, MD, president of the American Medical Association, states, “The NGA’s recommendations closely align with AMA’s policy supporting healthcare teams that draw on telemedicine and the unique strengths of physicians and physician assistants to ensure access to coordinated, patient-centered quality care.”
By conducting such an internal review on the scope of practice restrictions on PAs, states can ensure that they appropriately address the oncoming healthcare provider shortage to deliver the highest quality of care to the patient possible. For further information on the recommendations of the National Governor’s Association, please visit www.nga.org.