A declining number of patients have primary care providers — just 75 percent, as of 2015. For some, including a portion of millennials, this is a choice. For others, it’s because of a lack of access to primary care providers.
In fact, Florida faces a shortage of 4,600 primary care physicians by 2030, according to the Robert Graham Center. However, physicians aren’t the only ones who can provide primary care services to patients: PAs (physician assistants) and NPs (nurse practitioners) are ready to answer the call. Unfortunately, outdated practice barriers often hinder NPs and PAs from practicing at the top of their experience and training.
Enter HB 607 — a bill with widespread support that will ease the pain of the primary care physician shortage and reduce healthcare costs.
Championed by House Speaker José Oliva and Rep. Cary Pigman,Sebring, this bill will remove unnecessary administrative burdens for PAs and NPs to make it easier for patients to access the care they need, when and where they need it. It will also lower the costs of Florida’s healthcare system by giving employers a new level of flexibility and improving the efficiency of primary care services.
Study after study confirms that PAs and NPs provide high-quality care, and a study in the American Journal of Medicine suggests the increased use of PAs and NPs is a potential solution to the issue of primary care provider shortages.
Both PAs and NPs are educated at the master’s degree level and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider, diagnosing illnesses, developing and managing treatment plans, and prescribing medications.
Access to primary care is a problem we can’t take lightly. We must leave no stone unturned and ensure that PAs and NPs are able to contribute to the solution – for the good of Florida patients.
Vernon A. Wright, Fort Pierce, is the president of the Florida Academy of Physician Assistants.