facebook Share on Facebook |

WASHINGTON—Physician assistants (PAs) play a broad and expanding role in the health care system, working in a variety of practice areas and settings because of their adaptably and lower cost, according to a new paper released today by the National Governors Association (NGA).

The Role of Physician Assistants in Health Care Delivery summarizes the role of PAs in the U.S. health care system and the barriers that may be preventing them from being used to the best of their ability. The paper also specifies policy considerations for state leaders interested in getting the most value from their physician assistant workforce.

“PAs are an important component of developing strategies to deliver health care more efficiently and effectively,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. “Finding ways to eliminate the regulatory barriers that exist for PAs is crucial to growing the profession. Our state has an effective program - and one that educates returning veterans, typically medics, to become PAs to fill important primary care jobs.”

PAs deliver medical and surgical care in teams with physicians, who provide medical supervision and delegate tasks to the PA. State laws and regulations set the boundaries on scope of practice for PAs, which includes the types of services they can provide and the circumstances in which they are allowed to provide them.

To increase the use of the physician assistant workforce, states should review the laws and regulations affecting the profession and consider actions to increase the future supply of PAs. Most states grant PAs legal standing to provide care based on their skills and training, but for states that do not, should consider including PAs as providers of medical services in laws and regulation governing medical practice. Another thing states can do is evaluate whether the law or regulation governing the scope of practice granted PAs is sufficiently broad to allow PAs to play a significant role providing high-quality and cost effective medical care in the state. Finally, states could consider facilitating greater educational opportunities for PAs.

To learn more about the NGA Center for Best Practices Health Division, please visit www.nga.org/cms/center/health.