AAPA Responds to AAFP Survey on Care Providers


The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) is extremely disappointed with a recent report from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) that undermines the foundation of team-based care and demeans the importance of PAs to patients and providers alike. 

Based on a small survey of just over 1,300 people, AAFP claims that an overwhelming majority of Americans prefer to receive their medical care from a physician. Yet, this inference goes against a growing body of evidence that shows both patients and providers value the care provided by PAs:

  • An independent review of research concluded that people hold consistently positive views about PAs as healthcare providers and are satisfied with the care provided by PAs (1).
  • Most consumers would choose to see a PA or nurse practitioner if they were available before a physician. (2)
  • PAs were named as one of three primary care providers in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act alongside physicians and NPs.

To add to their inaccuracies, AAFP misspelled physician assistant in its news release about the survey.

Ensuring access to quality care is especially important in primary care and medically underserved areas, where a PA may be the only provider. Research indicates that 33 percent of PAs practice in primary care and 37 percent of PAs work in medically underserved counties of the U.S. (3)  Yet PAs are not just found in primary care, as they increase access to care in every medical and surgical setting.

According to the AAFP survey, patients value providers who are knowledgeable (37 percent), up to date on the latest medical advances (29 percent), experienced (27 percent) and someone they trust (27 percent).  We completely agree with that, as it describes PAs and other healthcare providers.

A PA is a graduate of an accredited PA educational program who is nationally certified and state-licensed to practice medicine. PA master’s degree programs take about two and a half years to complete and are modeled on the medical school curriculum, a combination of classroom education and a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical rotations. All 50 states and the District of Columbia authorize PAs to practice and prescribe medicine. 

The contributions PAs make to the healthcare team are invaluable and cannot be overlooked. PAs and physicians cannot meet America’s healthcare needs unless every member of the team can provide care to the fullest extent of their license.

Quite simply, America needs PAs.

(1) M. Halter and others, “The contribution of physician assistants in primary care: a systematic review,” BMC Health Services Research (2013) 13:223.
(2) MJ Dill and others, “Survey shows consumers open to a greater role for physician assistants and nurse practitioners,” Health Affairs 32(6) (2013): 1135-42.
(3) 2013 AAPA Annual Survey.
About the American Academy of Physician Assistants
Founded in 1968, the American Academy of Physician Assistants is the national professional society for physician assistants. It represents a profession of more than 93,000 certified PAs across all medical and surgical specialties in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the majority of the U.S. territories and within the uniformed services. AAPA advocates and educates on behalf of the profession and the patients PAs serve. It works to ensure the professional growth, personal excellence and recognition of physician assistants and to enhance their ability to improve the quality, accessibility and cost-effectiveness of patient-centered healthcare. Visit www.aapa.org and www.pasconnect.org to learn more.  

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