Agents for change: nonphysician medical providers and health care quality.
Quality medical care is a clinical and public health imperative, but defining quality and achieving improved, measureable outcomes are extremely complex challenges. Adherence to best practice invariably improves outcomes. Nonphysician medical providers (NPMPs), such as physician assistants and advanced practice nurses (eg, nurse practitioners, advanced practice registered nurses, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and certified nurse midwives), may be the first caregivers to encounter the patient and can act as agents for change for an organization's quality-improvement mandate. NPMPs are well positioned to both initiate and ensure optimal adherence to best practices and care processes from the moment of initial contact because they have robust clinical training and are integral to trainee/staff education and the timely delivery of care. The health care quality aspects that the practicing NPMP can affect are objective, appreciative, and perceptive. As bedside practitioners and participants in the administrative and team process, NPMPs can fine-tune care delivery, avoiding the problem areas defined by the Institute of Medicine: misuse, overuse, and underuse of care. This commentary explores how NPMPs can affect quality by 1) supporting best practices through the promotion of guidelines and protocols, and 2) playing active, if not leadership, roles in patient engagement and organizational quality-improvement efforts.
Boucher, NA; Mcmillen, MA; Gould, JS
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