Predicted shortages of physicians might even disappear if we fully account for PAs and NPs.
Healthcare workforce projections have important policy implications. Provider shortages can shortchange patients, and overproduction of providers imposes costs on society. The most publicized physician supply and demand projections, commissioned annually by the Association of American Medical Colleges, regularly predict dire physician shortages. These projections are based on unrealistically low estimates of the amount of physician work that can be replaced by physician assistants (PAs) and NPs. For example, the projections factor in the contribution of one primary care PA or NP as one-fourth that of a physician. If workforce projections used evidence-based productivity estimates, the predicted physician shortfalls would be much smaller and perhaps even disappear.
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