When A Nurse Is As Good As A Doctor
6 big benefits of NPs & PAs
"NPs and PAs are indispensable in handling everyday problems such as sore throats or urinary tract infections, freeing primary care doctors to handle more complex conditions, says John Santa, M.D., medical adviser to Consumer Reports. They can also prescreen patients, make hospital rounds, do follow-up care, monitor treatment, manage chronic conditions, and have a place in specialty care as well. "They can be very good at the history taking, reviewing a patient's records, and coordinating everything the specialist needs," Santa adds. What's more, many PAs work as surgical assistants. Though seeing an advanced practice practitioner is unlikely to lower your co-pay, it can help reduce overall health costs. Other benefits may include:
- Shorter waits for appointments. Merritt Hawkins, a health care search and consulting firm, found that in 15 metropolitan areas, new patients wait, on average, 18.5 days to see a cardiologist, dermatologist, family physician, obstetrician/gynecologist, or orthopedic surgeon. But with more providers in the office, the PA or NP can see a patient if the doctor can't.
- A team approach. Having an NP or PA on staff makes some aspects of team-based health care more feasible. He or she can check a cough, cut, or sprain, and ensure vaccinations and blood pressure and cholesterol checks are done. A 2013 review in the Journal for Nurse Practitioners reported comparable blood glucose and blood pressure levels in people cared for by NPs as in people seen by doctors.
- Convenient care. NPs and PAs staff some walk-in clinics at drugstores. So if you develop a urinary tract infection, for example, you can get the care you need ASAP.
- Faster emergency-room treatment. Canadian researchers have found that in ERs with NPs and PAs on duty, people without life-threatening symptoms were twice as likely to be treated within 15 to 60 minutes.
Help with chronic conditions. Once you and your physician decide on a treatment, a PA or NP can make sure it's going smoothly, for example, that your blood glucose levels are well-controlled.
APPs are especially helpful for seniors with chronic illnesses. A study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society noted that older patients managed by both an NP and a physician had higher quality care for dementia, falls, and urinary incontinence than those treated only by a physician. Co-management "is most appropriate for conditions that require a lot of close monitoring, patient engagement, and education," says study co-author David B. Reuben, M.D., chief of the division of geriatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
- Lower risk of hospital readmission. Leukemia patients in the hospital for chemotherapy cut their stays by about 6 days and were less likely to be readmitted within 14 days when cared for by PAs instead of doctors in training, according to a small study in the Journal of Oncology Practice. A 2013 study in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery found that when PAs make home visits to heart surgery patients as part of a PA home care program, it lowered 30-day readmissions by 25 percent."