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Physician shortage could be cut by new primary care models, study finds
Date:11/5/2013

Much of the shortage of primary care physicians expected over the next decade could be eliminated if the nation increases use of new models of medical care that expand the role of nurse practitioners and physician assistants, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

Expansion of patient-centered medical homes and nurse-managed health centers could help eliminate 50 percent or more of the primary care physician shortage expected to face the U.S. by 2025, according to findings published in the November edition of the journal Health Affairs.

"Growing use of new models of care that depend more on nonphysicians as primary care providers could do much to reduce the nation's looming physician shortage," said David Auerbach, the study's lead author and a policy analyst at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "But achieving this goal may require changes in policy, such as laws to expand the scope of practice for nurse practitioners and physician assistants, and changes in acceptance, on the part of providers and patients, of new models of care."

Forecasts suggest that as more Americans seek health services once they become newly insured under the Affordable Care Act, physician shortages could worsen. Prominent groups have projected shortages of primary care physicians as high as 45,000 physicians by 2025. Those forecasts do not account for changes in how primary care is delivered, however.

Both patient-centered medical homes and nurse-managed health centers are models of primary care that use a mix of medical providers that is richer in nurse practitioners and physician assistants than today's predominant models of delivering medical care.

Medical homes typically use a team-based approach that incorporates physicians, advance practice nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, nutritionists and other health professionals. They now account for about 15 percent of primary care nationally.

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Contact: Warren Robak
robak@rand.org
310-451-6913
RAND Corporation
Source:Eurekalert

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