White Paper

Mitigating Exposure for Advanced Practice Clinicians

America faces a looming primary care physician shortage. How bad is it? A study funded by the Association of American Medical Colleges notes that by 2020 there will be a shortage of 91,500 physicians.

White Paper Summary

America faces a looming primary care physician shortage.

How bad is it? A study funded by the Association of American Medical Colleges notes that by 2020 there will be a shortage of 91,500 physicians.1 Many physicians are scaling back the numbers of new patients or limiting the services provided to underserved populations, namely poor urban communities and rural populations where residents have no or limited access to healthcare clinics. Approximately 10 percent of America’s physicians have rural practices even though one-fourth of the population lives in these areas.2Further increasing the nationwide strain on the supply of physicians, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could result in 15 million more Medicare-eligible Americans and more than 30 million Americans overall participating in the healthcare system by 2025.3

The physician shortage raises the risk for patient harm. In a 2012 study by the Physicians Foundation, physicians reported they were “at capacity” and were “overworked and over extended.”4 Physicians remaining in the marketplace face multiple liability challenges posed by errors due to exhaustion, longer patient wait times, the inability to quickly address worsening medical conditions, and the lack of time to provide preventative medical care.

One solution: increased use of APCs. But there are risks.

Increased use of advanced practice clinicians (APCs), including physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs), has been one solution to the shortage of physicians. In some rural areas, APCs are the only healthcare professionals available for miles. For example, in 2011 South Dakota had 757 licensed primary care physicians, but 19 counties where there was no primary care physician at all.5APCs are also playing a critical role in modern healthcare team-based delivery systems designed to improve cost-effectiveness.

Increased use of advanced practice clinicians (APCs), including physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs), has been one solution to the shortage of physicians. In some rural areas, APCs are the only healthcare professionals available for miles. For example, in 2011 South Dakota had 757 licensed primary care physicians, but 19 counties where there was no primary care physician at all.5APCs are also playing a critical role in modern healthcare team-based delivery systems designed to improve cost-effectiveness.

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