A recent report published by the National Governors Association (NGA) takes a detailed look at the vital healthcare workforce asset that PAs represent.
I have blogged regularly on this subject. As a PA who has practiced for more than 30 years, I have seen a lot of change and evolution of the profession both internally at institutions and externally in the healthcare field. The most recent trend is the expanding awareness among policymakers and legislators regarding the asset that PAs represent in caring for the citizens in their jurisdictions.
The NGA is the bipartisan organization of the nation’s governors. Through NGA, governors share best practices, speak with a collective voice on national policy, and develop innovative solutions that improve state government and support the principles of federalism.
It is gratifying to see the NGA, an influential policy group, coming to the realization that includes the care that PAs provide as a solution to the very complex problem of healthcare delivery within the states.
For too long, a substantial portion of health policy was made for political reasons rather than practical reasons. This gave the power to the lobbying groups and their interests first and foremost before the needs of patients and healthcare providers.
Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, we have seen a new urgency in attempting to determining the best way to deliver much-needed healthcare in our communities to the millions of Americans who are newly covered by health insurance.
The NGA identifies some of the same barriers to the distribution of the healthcare workforce that affect physicians. Mainly, trying to get physicians, PAs, and others to deliver care in medically underserved areas. The isolation, low pay, and other factors are a significant barrier to recruiting a healthcare workforce to these areas.
As the report states, PAs are important contributors to emerging strategies to deliver healthcare more efficiently and effectively, but important barriers exist that could slow the growth of the profession. For example, state laws and regulations may not be broad enough to encompass the professional competencies of PAs.
The NGA concludes:
The education that PAs receive produces a sophisticated and flexible workforce, well suited to succeeding in a rapidly changing health care environment. The profession offers a scalable and affordable source of health care. PAs will continue to play an important role in health care delivery in the future, particularly in light of new, integrated models of care.
Those of us who have worked in the profession over the decades since the first PAs graduated in 1967 have always understood this. It is very gratifying to see the National Governors Association come to the same conclusion.
I agree with the conclusions of the NGA. It makes three recommendations in the report:
1. Reviewing state laws and regulations related to PA practice to ensure that PAs are being used efficiently and effectively, especially taking special care to examine the definition of “provider.”
2. Facilitating education and training opportunities for PAs
3. And finally, creating financial incentives to encourage PAs to work in underserved communities.
This report presents a good start to solving the healthcare provider shortage that is growing worse by the year. We need to reduce the barriers to efficient and effective physician-PA team practice. We need to eliminate unnecessary administrative burdens to team operation and allow decisions regarding how the team functions to be made at the practice level.
I am very excited for these recommendations made in this report, as they acknowledge that PAs are crucial to the healthcare field and its renewed focus on team-based care. PAs are already providing care in a variety of settings, with the number of PAs growing every year. The education that PAs receive produces a sophisticated and flexible approach to healthcare that prepares them for practice in every setting.
PAs will continue to play an important role in healthcare delivery in the future, particularly in delivering new, integrated models of care, and their value should not be understated. National PA Week is October 6 to 12. I hope you will join me in recognizing the value PAs bring to the healthcare field.
This blog was provided in partnership with the American Academy of Physician Assistants.