Benefits of Adding a Physician Assistant
Some physicians object to the addition of physician assistants because they are concerned about how their patients will react. In most cases, patients' reactions are positive because they benefit directly from the staff addition.
For example, patients can be given the option of seeing the PA for an appointment which might cut down their wait. Instead of waiting a week for an appointment, a patient may be able to come in the next day.
Another example is that the medical practice's schedule can be more flexible. Your practice can accept walk-ins and handle more routine follow-ups. Plus, patients in need of urgent care won't be forced to wait and won't necessarily delay everyone else's appointments.
Physician assistants can also be placed in charge of education and prevention programs which provide additional help to patients. For example, if several patients are overweight, the PA can have special support meetings with the patients or can provide one-on-one nutrition counseling that you may not have time to do. They can also do home visits for patients who have a difficult time with mobility or can provide care for patients in nursing homes and similar facilities.
Finally, the physician assistant can allow you to focus on the cases which do truly require your attention. Patients with recurring problems and serious health issues may need more time with you. If your PA can handle the minor problems, then you'll be able to devote more time to helping those patients with more critical needs.
While there are clear benefits to adding a physician assistant, there are some potential pitfalls as well.
Concerns About Adding Physician Assistants
One of the major concerns is billing problems. Even though physician assistants are usually given a set salary which is lower than a physician's, the services they provide to patients are billed at the same price they would be if the physician had provided them. However, insurance providers may not always agree with this practice.
Medicare and Medicaid rules vary by state, but some states may have restrictions on when a physician will be eligible to receive 100% payment if the work is done by a PA. Both generally do cover physician assistant-provided care, however.
Private insurance providers also vary. Most do pay for physician assistant services, but they vary on how they want the charges billed or they have specific stipulations regarding what is covered and what is not.