Greater access to quality care and lower costs are strong incentives
According to a recent report by the Association of Medical Colleges, we are in the calm before the proverbial storm relating to physician demand. The report states that the need for physicians will increase due to an aging population; however, the physician supply is expected to decrease. The projected physician shortfall will range from 40,800 to 104,900 by 2030. As if the strain of an older population wasn’t enough, the survey also projects ”more than one-third of all currently active physicians will be 65 or older within the next decade.”¹ That means a lot of doctors that are practicing medicine now will be retired in the next ten years. Some areas that are already feeling the strain are hiring Nurse Practitioners to fill in the gaps.
The Changing Perception of NPs
Although Nurse Practitioners (NPs) have been practicing for decades, the concept is somewhat new in most areas. In the past, the majority of NPs practiced in rural areas to compensate for physician shortages. Now, they can be found in many urban and suburban areas within an array of specialties such as family practice, gynecology, and anesthesiology. As NPs have become more commonplace, patients have become more comfortable utilizing them as a trusted healthcare provider.
Access to Quality Care
Although their roles and degree of autonomy vary by state, NPs provide many of the same services as a physician in the office setting. They perform examinations, make diagnoses, prescribe medication, and manage patient care in much the same way as a doctor. For many busy practices, having another provider means they can take same-day appointments and manage overflow, leading to greater access to care for patients.
Lower Costs for Patients and Practices
Most payers reimburse NPs at a lower level, due to lower educational costs. However, becoming an NP usually requires work experience and a master’s level (or higher) degree to become certified in their area. This lower reimbursement can translate into savings for a patient who will pay less to see an NP.
Patients aren’t the only ones to benefit from cost savings. The average wage of an NP is significantly less than a physician. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that NPs make on average $51.68 per hour², while the average wage of a physician is $100.00 per hour.³ When many practices do the math, they find that hiring NPs not only makes sense in terms of patient access, it also makes good financial sense.
Integration into Practice Workflow
NPs provide the most value to both patients and healthcare practices when they have been thoughtfully integrated into the office workflow. For some organizations, it makes sense for NPs to concentrate on same-day appointments, while others may choose to have them manage patient populations with chronic conditions such as diabetes and consequently positively impact the quality of care.
Continuum has helped many practices evaluate where Nurse Practitioners can make the most significant impact on patient care and the bottom line. We use data analytics and insights, as well as clinical and professional knowledge, to improve practice workflows that maximize the benefit of having an NP on staff. For more information about how Continuum can help transform your practice or group, please email or call 856-782-3300.