While December can be a time for reminiscing, at NCCPA we are keenly focused on the future of the PA profession. There is no doubt — based on our first 50 years — that PAs will be increasingly present in every specialty and clinical setting, making a difference in the health care industry and most importantly, in the lives of patients. Our profession's accomplishments in 2018 and beyond will continue to be noteworthy and newsworthy.
Here are the principal trends I see moving forward:
PAs Practicing at the Highest Levels of Licensure: State legislatures will continue to expand scope of practice for PAs to take full advantage of our high-level of education and our rigorous certification and certification maintenance processes. Those states that have already granted wider latitude for delivering medical services have facilitated greater patient access to quality care.
Expanding Care of Mental Health Issues: More than 111 million Americans live in areas with a shortage of mental health professionals. PAs will help bridge those gaps. The NCCPA Health Foundation is leading a new effort to engage and equip all PAs to provide greater access to care for patients' mental health and substance use disorders. PAs will increasingly help in this critical area by being aware of symptoms, treating what they can and then referring those who need ongoing help to community resources.
Number of PAs Growing in Leadership Positions: PAs will continue to have a larger voice in policy creation and administration. PAs are serving in advanced practice provider leadership roles. Those who want to use their leadership abilities are stepping up to create environments that recognize the value of PAs and ensure they have an effective orientation plan; mentors who can help them be successful; and a career ladder to support retention. In addition, PAs are increasingly weighing in on operations to streamline and improve processes that improve patient care and bolster the financial viability of the office or hospital.
Incorporation of Additional Technologies: Patient's today want 24/7 access to their health records and a way to contact their provider directly. Patient portals are becoming part of the patient experience. Patient engagement strategies including telehealth and video visits are rapidly expanding, particularly in remote areas and outside regular business hours. Used frequently by major hospital systems, these technologies will be more available in the small-to-medium practice setting. The median age of PAs is only 39 — an age group that embraces new technologies. PAs in your office will be comfortable using and explaining a full range of healthcare technology resources.