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Filling the gap in primary care: How advanced practitioners can help – Fall 2014

While it’s impossible to predict the future, signs point to a growing shortage of primary care physicians in the United States in the coming years. Here are just a few to consider:

Not enough physicians – By 2020, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) expects a shortfall of primary care physicians as high as 20,400.

More insured patients – By 2022, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is projected to reduce the number of uninsured by 30 million. Many of these people will seek healthcare services through primary care providers.

Aging population – Increased longevity and population growth are expected to affect demand for primary care more than the ACA, accounting for 81% of projected healthcare demand.

Potential benefits of hiring NPs and PAs include:

More veterans – Demand for primary care for veterans is also on the rise. In the past three years, the U.S. Veteran’s Administration (VA) primary care appointments increased by 50%, but the number of VA primary care doctors only increased by 9%.

With fewer primary care physicians, healthcare facilities may struggle to meet the needs of their patients and risk losing revenue – both from the inability to accept new patients and from the loss of existing patients, who may choose to go to urgent care centers or emergency rooms instead of waiting for an appointment.

How advanced practitioners can help
In light of this potential shortage, it makes sense to turn to an additional qualified resource –nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs). The HRSA projects that by 2020, while the nation’s supply of primary care physicians may only grow by 8%, the number of primary care NPs could grow by 30% and the number of primary care PAs could grow by as much as 58%. This expanding group of highly skilled healthcare workers could be called on to handle many aspects of primary care, in partnership with physicians.

Using the information above, healthcare recruiters can help their facilities view NPs and PAs not as replacements for physicians, but rather as ideal complements, allowing them to meet the increasing demand for primary care cost-effectively, without sacrificing quality of service.

VISTA Staffing Solutions, a division of On Assignment, Inc., is a leading provider of physician and advanced practice locum tenens staffing, government placement and permanent search services. Founded in 1990, the company helps hospitals, medical practices, and government agencies solve their physician staffing challenges.


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