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Report Shows Patients Would Consider a Greater Role for Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners for Timely Access to Care

Washington, D.C., June 3, 2013—While about half of Americans prefer physicians as primary care providers, they are willing to be treated by nurse practitioners and physician assistants for timely access, according to a new study published in the June issue of Health Affairs.  The paper also notes that policymakers should consider alternative delivery models as a way to help deal with the coming physician shortage.

“As this nation faces a critical doctor shortage—90,000 by the year 2020—we must find ways to be certain patients have access to the care they need,” said Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., president and CEO of the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges).  “By our estimate, training 4,000 more doctors a year is a critically important part of the solution.  But medical schools and teaching hospitals also are exploring innovative methods of care delivery that involve all members of the team to address patient needs when appropriate.  This study shows that Americans are open to that possibility.  There is no single solution to this problem.  We need to focus on building our capacity to train physicians, while also embracing the roles in which other professionals can serve.”

The study, “Survey Shows Consumers Open to a Greater Role for Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners,” includes analysis of data from the AAMC Center for Workforce Studies Consumer Survey.  Authors Michael Dill, Stacie Pankow, Clese Erikson, and Scott Shipman, M.D., all AAMC staff members, point out that in two common clinical scenarios presented to survey respondents, a large majority of patients would prefer to see a physician assistant or nurse practitioner in one day rather than waiting three days to see a physician.  

Read the study at


The Association of American Medical Colleges is a not-for-profit association dedicated to transforming health care through innovative medical education, cutting-edge patient care, and groundbreaking medical research. Its members comprise all 147 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and more than 80 academic societies. Through these institutions and organizations, the AAMC serves the leaders of America’s medical schools and teaching hospitals and their nearly 160,000 faculty members, 83,000 medical students, and 115,000 resident physicians. Additional information about the AAMC and its member medical schools and teaching hospitals is available at


Susan Beach