Las Vegas — Nurse practitioners (NPs) continue to provide cost-effective care equivalent to that of physicians, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners emphasized here at the AANP 2013 National Conference.

“A solid body of evidence demonstrates that NPs have consistently proven to be cost -effective providers of high-quality care for almost 50 years,” the AANP said in statement, citing several studies and analyses conducted during the past three decades.

Factors that contribute to the value of the NP profession include savings in academic preparation, stability in compensation and cost-related clinical outcomes similar to those of physicians when treating patients.

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The Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) conducted the first cost analysis of the NP profession in 1981, and found that NPs provided “equivalent or improved medical care at a lower cost” than physicians and were even able to lower patient visits by one-third, especially when patients were seen in an independent manner. A 1986 OTA follow-up study confirmed these findings.

In terms of education and training, NPs pay approximately 20% to 25% of the overall tuition paid by physicians, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Total tuition costs for NPs as of 2009 were less than tuition for a single year of medical school.

Furthermore, in 2012 economist Ray Perryman projected that greater reliance on NP-provided healthcare could generate more than $16 billion in immediate savings using the state of Texas as a model. These savings were not limited to individual practices and have been consistently recognized in specialized clinical instances throughout several organizations.

NP-physician teams have proven to be especially cost-effective compared with physician-only teams.  Physician-NP teams were 42% less costly than physician-only teams for intermediate hospital stays and 26% less costly for long-term stays, results of an analysis indicate.  In addition, such teams had fewer in-house complications and patient readmissions.

Collaboration between NPs and physicians in a neuroscience setting, for example, resulted in over $2.4 million in savings for the first year alone in a study conducted by Howard Larkin in 2003, with further savings accrued when applied to a system-wide model.

“In addition to absolute cost, other factors are important to healthcare cost-effectiveness, [including] illness prevention, health promotion, and outcomes,” the AANP noted.