Should Your Medical Practice Consider Hiring Non-Physician Providers?

August 23, 2021 by Antonio Arias, MBA, CHBME

Topics: Practice Management, Medical Billing Company

Running an efficient and streamlined medical practice means you have to make smart hiring decisions. Delivering the best patient care is, of course, your top priority, but do you need to exclusively hire physicians to make that happen? Not exactly - you certainly have options, like nurse practitioners and physician assistants! Read on to learn what distinguishes these professions, and how they can benefit your medical practice.

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What Do Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants Do? 

There are more than 325,000 nurse practitioners licensed in the US - but what do they do, and how are they different from physician assistants? Nurse practitioners diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries, but they place a stronger emphasis on preventative medicine and the overall promotion of health; additionally, they can work without the supervision of a physician. 

On the other hand, physician assistants spend their days diagnosing patients’ illnesses and injuries, performing physical examinations, and providing patients with treatment plans. They perform services that doctors may provide, but are always under the supervision of one or more physicians. Currently, there are more than 142,000 physician assistants licensed in America.

Both physician assistants and nurse practitioners have advanced education and credentials that allow them to have greater scope and autonomy than their registered nurse colleagues.

Hiring non-physician providers

How Do Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants Compare?

One of the biggest differences between NPs and PAs is the education that each receives. PAs are trained according to the same model as doctors - an approach that focuses on the study of disease. The nursing-centric education model for NPs produces a more comprehensive approach, however, and is one that includes a general health-promotion perspective.

Another point is that of each professional’s typical area of focus and location. NPs often focus on primary care, as well as women’s health, geriatrics, and pediatrics; they can also specialize in other areas, such as psychiatry, orthopedics or urgent care. PAs may specialize as well, for example, in emergency medicine, surgery, oncology, cardiology, and internal medicine. 

Nurse practitioners may be employed in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, physician offices, schools, long-term care facilities, clinics and summer camps. Physician assistants, too, practice in a variety of healthcare delivery settings. Typically, you’ll find them in acute care practices, outpatient centers, and private practices.

Benefits of Hiring Physician Assistants or Nurse Practitioners

There are some advantages of hiring either physician assistants or nurse practitioners for your medical practice.

Hiring a PA or Nurse Practitioner Can Help Fill the Physician Shortage

The country’s rapidly increasing demand for physicians over the next 15 years will outpace its supply, leading to a shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034. This shortage is positioning NPs and PAs in an increasingly important role in primary care as more healthcare providers employ them to fill the gap.

The PA workforce is also increasing to meet this demand. From 2018 to 2028, the physician assistant labor market is expected to grow by more than 37%. There is currently around one PA for every 10 physicians in clinical practice, and approximately one PA enters the U.S. workforce for every six physicians. Plus, more than 36,000 new NPs completed their academic programs in 2019–2020.

Along with higher demand, another contributing factor to the rapid increase in the number of practicing mid-level practitioners is the amount of education required to practice. NPs and PAs can enter the healthcare system after just two to three years of advanced training, compared to around eight years for physicians.

Hiring Non-Physician Providers Can Create Cost-Savings

When making decisions at your medical practice, you do your best to examine every cost of operation to ensure your financial future is secure. One of the quickest ways to save your financial bottom line is to make smart hiring choices. For example, the base physician salary ranges from $170k-$220k; thus, if you can hire a PA, you’ll get something that is very similar for a fraction of the cost—one of the best advantages for healthcare companies and physicians. You can get another person to help you practice and do almost the same things and not have to pay what you would for a physician.

Hiring non-physician providers

Non-Physician Providers Can Provide a Comparable Level of Care to Physicians

Despite their considerably lower salaries, NPs and PAs have a similar skill set to that of physicians; in fact, studies show that care from NPs and PAs was nearly comparable to that of physicians. These may include performing physical exams, writing prescriptions and ordering diagnostic tests, diagnosing and treating conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, and educating patients on health and lifestyle choices.

By bringing qualified non-physician providers – namely physician assistants and nurse practitioners – into your practice, doctors can meet their patient’s needs in a more timely and attentive manner. Physicians can also allocate their time more impactfully with extra capable staff on hand, by prioritizing new patients, challenging cases, and specialized procedures while PAs and NPs handle less complex activities.

Reach Out to the Experts for More Revenue Cycle Management Tips

Just like selecting the best non-physician providers for your medical practice, choosing the right medical billing company when outsourcing your billing processes is incredibly important for building and sustaining a successful healthcare practice. No matter your specialty or unique needs, having the right medical billing services can make all the difference when it comes to an efficient billing process and improved revenue cycle management.

At NCG Medical, we’ve been the outsourced medical billing experts for four decades by handling all the ins and outs of the medical billing process. Our customized solutions can improve revenue management cycles and ensure that your practice is receiving the most streamlined reimbursement process. Contact us today to learn more about how we can transform your medical billing today. 

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