90% of PA Respondents Cite Disconnect Between Official Title “Physician Assistant” and Their Role in Healthcare

Research Strongly Suggests that Exploration of Alternatives to Physician Assistant Title Should Be Pursued

May 19, 2019

Ninety percent of PA respondents cite a disconnect between their official title (physician assistant) and their role in healthcare, according to new research presented today to the House of Delegates (HOD) of the American Academy of PAs (AAPA) by WPP, the agency selected to lead the independent Title Change Investigation. Overall research findings strongly suggest that exploration of an alternative professional title for PAs should be pursued.

PAs are medical providers who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. With thousands of hours of medical training, PAs are versatile and collaborative. PAs practice in every state and in every medical setting and specialty, improving healthcare access and quality.

This Title Change Investigation was initiated a year ago when AAPA’s HOD passed a resolution to investigate the feasibility of changing the legal title of the PA profession, “physician assistant,” along with identifying potential alternatives that better reflect modern PA practice. The overarching goal of the project is to position PAs to successfully compete in the changing healthcare marketplace.

Nearly 6,000 PAs and 1,300 PA students responded to a large-scale quantitative study. A qualitative study was also conducted. The qualitative interviews included one-on-one conversations and focus groups with more than 50 people, including patients, PAs, PA students, physicians, nurse practitioners, employers, think tanks, professional societies, medical boards, government agencies, and legislators.

The initial results indicate that, across all stakeholder groups, PAs are viewed favorably, offering value by expanding access to care and reducing healthcare costs. However, the title physician assistant is not seen as a good fit with PA roles and responsibilities. Most people believe the word “assistant” does not align with what PAs do or with the standard description of PA roles and responsibilities. It also causes confusion about what PAs are capable of and legally permitted to do. Additional quantitative research with physicians, employers, and patients is currently underway.

In the next phase of this project, WPP will leverage the qualitative and quantitative research learnings to develop a strategic foundation for positioning the PA brand and inform title development. There will also be an evaluation of the business and legislative impact, as well as the costs associated with a potential title change. This and other information will be shared at the HOD meeting in May 2020, so that the policy-making body of AAPA can make an informed decision about the future title of physician assistants.

For more information, please visit https://www.aapa.org/title-change-investigation-resources/ or email [email protected].


Additional Information:

Recent Board Actions

PA Title Change Investigation Advances with Selection of Advisory Council Members

Expert Research and Branding Company Selected to Conduct Title Change Investigation

PAs Vote to Investigate Changing Their Professional Title

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