To ensure an adequate primary-care workforce, national and state legal, regulatory and reimbursement policies need to recognize the role of physician assistants in a physician-directed, multidisciplinary team such as a patient-centered medical home, according to a joint policy statement released by the American Academy of Family Physicians and American Academy of Physician Assistants.
Family physicians, assistants join forces
Noting that the PA profession emerged from primary-care shortages and poor distribution 50 years ago, the statement also tells how the PA workforce has grown 29,900% to about 75,000 in 2010 from 250 in 1970. But the statement also warns that “Even with increased numbers of physicians and PAs, family medicine will still face the challenges of competing with higher-paying specialties, recruiting candidates to rural communities and reduced medical resident hours, which have increased demand for PAs in that sector.”
Both organizations advocate for education policies that expand intraprofessional training in family medicine and for national workforce policies that ensure an adequate supply of primary-care clinicians. They also call for scope of practice flexibility and reliance on the supervising physician or healthcare institution in which the PA practices to determine the PA's role based on individual skill and patient need.
“Physician-to-PA ratios and the supervision process should not be restricted in state or federal law,” the statement said. “Instead, they should be determined by the physicians, PAs, and facilities involved, based on the needs of the practice and the community.”
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