Role of PAs a health care consideration

October 5, 2009
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There is an incredibly important debate being held in Washington regarding the future of our nation’s health care system. Another important and critical voice that is vital to the debate is that of the physician assistant.

Physician assistants are a critical extension of the services physicians provide — in fact PAs are often the primary service providers in rural areas. Studies have shown that many patients place a high value on services by PAs due to improved coordination of medical care during their visits with PAs, or the physician/PA team.

While PAs cannot replace doctors — nor do they wish to — they play a vital role in the health care system team. That’s why PAs must play a key role in re-shaping our nation’s health care system, ensuring that current and future Michigan residents receive quality, cost-effective health care. Patients are PA’s No. 1 priority and PAs are dedicated to their patients.

The Michigan Academy of Physician Assistants and the American Academy of Physician Assistants recognize that inequitable distribution of care and the rapid acceleration of health care costs demand a thoughtful, coordinated re-evaluation of the entire health care system. It’s both MAPA’s and AAPA’s objective to be a constructive partner with legislators, Congress, physicians and our patients to arrive at health care reforms that are meaningful, fair and sustainable.

Congress, the president, patients, businesses, physicians, PAs and many others within the health care community agree that health care reform is needed. MAPA, along with the AAPA, support the following principles to direct the efforts on health care reform:

The primary goal of comprehensive health care system reform is to ensure access to quality, affordable and cost-efficient health care for all residents of the United States.

  • Any proposed health care reform plan must include: access for all residents; evidence-based care; equitable distribution of care and resources; and a payment mechanism that is portable and sustainable for individuals, families, and society.

A health care system must provide basic services to all residents. These services should include all mainstream medical, dental and mental health services. Additionally, alternative health care practices that have proven effective should also be evaluated for coverage. The scope of basic health care services provided should be determined by public policy that is influenced by qualified health care professionals and consumers based on considerations of medical effectiveness, bioethics and resources (human, financial and research).

Health care must be delivered by qualified providers in physician-directed teams including physician assistants.

Patients should retain their choice of providers, have access to a variety of health services and should be satisfied with the type and quality of care offered by the providers and the health care system. All providers — allopathic, osteopathic and alternative — should be held to the highest professional standards of evidence-based care and medical ethics.

System reform must enhance the relationship between the patient and the clinician.

The patient, and when appropriate, the patient’s family, should be the ultimate decision makers in matters of treatment after receiving competent, evidence-based medical advice.

Cost controls in a reformed system should focus on the economies generated by health promotion and disease prevention through the optimal utilization of primary care. Reform should encourage continued research and development of clinical pathways that provide high quality patient care at a reasonable cost.

Wallace Boeve is president of the Michigan Academy of Physician Assistants.

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