Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners as a Usual Source of Care

Authors


  • This study was supported by a grant (5 P01 AG021079-01004) from the National Institute on Aging. Christine Everett and Jessica Schumacher were supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)/National Research Service Award (NRSA) T-32 Institutional Training Program Grant Number: 5-T32-HS00083. This project was supported by the Health Innovation Program and the Community/Academic Partnerships core of the University of Wisconsin Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (UW ICTR), grant 1UL1RR025011 from the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program of the National Center for Research Resources, National Institutes of Health. For further information, contact: Christine M. Everett, MPH, PA-C, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health 610 Walnut Street, WARF Office Building, Room 550, Madison, WI 53726; e-mail cmeverett@wisc.edu.

Abstract

ABSTRACT: Purpose:To identify characteristics and outcomes of patients who use physician assistants and nurse practitioners (PA/NPs) as a usual source of care. Methods: Cross sectional analysis using the telephone and mail surveys of the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS), a prospective cohort study of Wisconsin high school graduates and selected siblings (n = 6,803). Findings: Individuals from metropolitan (OR = 0.40, 95% CI = 0.29-0.54) and micropolitan (OR = 0.65, 95% CI = 0.44-0.95) areas were less likely to utilize PA/NPs than participants from rural locations. Participants without insurance or with public insurance other than Medicare were more likely than those with private insurance to utilize PA/NPs (OR = 1.71, 95% CI = 1.02-2.86). Patients of PA/NPs were more likely to be women (OR = 1.77, 95% CI = 1.34-2.34), younger (OR = 0.95, 95% CI = 0.92-0.98) and have lower extroversion scores (OR = 0.81, 95% CI = 0.68-0.96). Participants utilizing PA/NPs reported lower perceived access (β=−0.22, 95% CI =−0.35-0.09) than those utilizing doctors. PA/NP utilization was associated with an increased likelihood of chiropractor visits (OR = 1.57, 95% CI = 1.15-2.15) and decreased likelihood of a complete health exams (OR = 0.74, 95% CI = 0.55-0.99) or mammograms (OR = 0.65, 95% CI = 0.45-0.93). There were no significant differences in self-rated health or difficulties/delays in receiving care. Conclusions: Populations served by PA/NPs and doctors differ demographically but not in complexity. Though perceived access to care was lower for patients of PA/NPs, there were few differences in utilization and no differences in difficulties/delays in care or outcomes. This suggests that PA/NPs are acting as primary care providers to underserved patients with a range of disease severity, findings which have important implications for policy, including clinician workforce and reimbursement issues.

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