As healthcare systems work to meet increasing demand, many leaders are exploring the role of advanced practice providers as part of the solution to the physician shortage. The strategic utilization of physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) not only allows hospitals to see more patients, but it has the potential to significantly enhance the quality of care, alleviate the burden on physicians, and bolster the financial health of healthcare institutions.
The role of advanced practice providers is evolving
As the healthcare landscape becomes increasingly complex, views on the role of advanced practice providers are evolving. Historically, these highly trained professionals were often underutilized and relegated to a supporting role in healthcare teams. Today, there is a growing recognition — among healthcare administrators and patients alike — that NPs and PAs can be integral members of the care team.
“Over the past five to ten years, there have been exponential leaps and bounds with the utilization and understanding of advanced practice,” says Jacob Hier, manager of enterprise accounts at CHG Healthcare, Weatherby Healthcare’s parent company. “Right now, there is more willingness and acceptability of utilizing advanced practice providers than ever before.”
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Strategic models for utilizing advanced practice providers
A common approach to utilizing NPs and PAs involves physicians participating in every patient visit, either by providing care directly or overseeing the work of a PA or NP. This can be burdensome for the supervising physician.
In an ideal team-based staffing model, the NP or PA can see lower acuity patients when a physician is not needed, increasing the average daily patient census. This model also allows physicians to spend more time with the patients who need it the most.
That said, the scope of practice can differ for both nurse practitioners and physician assistants based on facility and state regulations, which can limit practice autonomy. However, policy is continuously evolving and organizations such as the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the American Academy of Physician Associates (AAPA) are actively advocating for more practice autonomy and authority.
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Benefits of employing advanced practice providers
Leveraging advanced practice talent has the potential to benefit the healthcare facility as well as physicians and patients.
Benefits to healthcare facilities
Healthcare systems can realize substantial rewards from incorporating PAs and NPs into their workforce. Not only does an expanded care team translate into increased patient volume, but it also results in improved patient outcomes and a healthier bottom line. A healthcare facility’s candidate pool is also drastically increased by considering advanced practice providers.
One of the most significant impacts on a hospital’s bottom line is that the pay expectations of PAs and NPs are much lower than those of physicians. “Being able to hire more advanced practice providers and still bill at up to 85% of the physician’s rate — depending on insurance providers — can help a facility see more patients at a lower cost. It’s evident how that specifically helps from an economic standpoint,” Hier says.
Benefits to physicians
Introducing NPs or PAs can help mitigate the risk of physician burnout by distributing patient care responsibilities among a larger pool of providers. It also enables physicians to focus their expertise on complex cases, ultimately optimizing the allocation of their skills and knowledge.
“Advanced practitioners can see a lot of what comes into a primary care or outpatient urgent care setting, while some patients require a higher level of triage,” says Hier. “Ultimately, this model allows the physician to focus on the higher acuity needs for which they’re specially trained. And from the advanced practitioner’s perspective, they’re becoming more included in the physician side of things, acting more or less as an extension of the physician. And they have the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Benefits to patients
Finally, patients also stand to gain significantly from the inclusion of NPs and PAs in their healthcare team. The use of advanced practice providers benefits patients by improving access to timely and high-quality healthcare.
“When lesser-acuity cases can be triaged and treated by an NP or PA, a higher volume of patients can be seen simultaneously, resulting in lower wait times and elevated patient care,” says Hier.
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Rethinking healthcare staffing models
It takes a lot to change the structure of healthcare. However, as healthcare demands increase and simultaneously become increasingly complex, healthcare systems are looking to advance practice providers to broaden their approach to patient care.
NPs and PAs can help hospitals enhance their efficiency, improve patient satisfaction, and increase financial viability in today’s dynamic healthcare landscape.
Need temporary coverage at your healthcare facility? Weatherby Healthcare has quality locum tenens PAs and NPs ready to go to work for you. Give us a call at 954.343.3050 to learn more.