Washington, D.C. – Utilizing physician assistant and nurse practitioner services is an effective strategy to ease primary care physician shortages, data indicate.

Roderick S. Hooker, PhD, MBA, PA-C, adjunct professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, and colleagues analyzed ambulatory care visit characteristics using data from the 2001 to 2010 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) to identify differences in patients and diagnoses evaluated by PAs, NPs and physicians.

Results were presented during a poster session at the American Academy of Physician Assistants IMPACT 2013 meeting.

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Among the 777 million weighted visits considered, physician assistants attended 5.4% and nurse practitioners attended 8.9%, accounting for a total of 14% of visits.

All three provider types manage a significant proportion of chronic disease proportion of chronic disease visits – accounting for 32% of physician visits, 20% of NP visits and 18% of PA visits.

Physicians attended a higher proportion of visits with older patients, whereas PAs and NPs attended a higher proportion of visits in nonmetropolitan areas.

“These findings suggest that some division of labor exits among providers that could contribute to improved organizational efficiency in ambulatory  systems,” Hooker and colleagues wrote.

The proportion of participants from each profession reporting they were a patient’s primary care provider was similar among the three professions – 42% for physicians, 52% for PAs and 55% for NPs.

“Optimal utilization of PAs and NPs may be able to be leveraged to help mitigate primary care physician shortages,” the researchers concluded.


  1. Hooker RS et al. Poster Session. “Physician Assistant and Nurse Practitioner Ambulatory Care Chronic Disease Management.” Presented at: American Academy of Physician Assistants IMPACT 2013 Meeting. May 25-29, 2013. Washington, DC.