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
- 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
- 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.
Halter and others, “The contribution of physician assistants in primary care: a
systematic review,” BMC Health Services
Research (2013) 13:223.
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.