Physicians who are swamped with work often find themselves wondering whether it would be more cost-effective to add another physician to the practice or as an alternative, a physician extender (also called non-physician practitioner). While hiring a doctor may seem like the logical choice (considering that he or she can do everything you can do), adding a physician extender may be a better option.
Physician Extender Categories
There are two groups of physician extenders: nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs). Nurse practitioners have a Master’s Degree in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) while physician assistants are Physician Assistant Certified (PA-C) and have a Master’s Degree. These non-physician practitioners are well educated, highly qualified and can perform many of the tasks that physicians do.
Trained Like Doctors
Physician extenders are trained according to the same model as doctors. They may not have the skill set of a doctor, but they can perform 85 percent of the tasks of primary care physicians. They are aware of all the common diseases and conditions and their treatments. They can perform physical examinations, write prescriptions, order diagnostic tests, diagnose conditions, educate patients on how to adopt a healthy lifestyle and treat ailments like high blood pressure and diabetes. However, because they are not certified as physicians, they cannot practice independently.
The main benefit of adding a physician extender compared to hiring a doctor is in the resulting financial savings. In the United States, the base salary of a physician is approximately $173,000 while that of non-physician practitioners, both NPs and PAs, is about $89,000. For just a little more than the salary of one physician, you can probably hire two physician extenders.
Savings in salary is not the only advantage of hiring physician extenders. They also come with lower overhead costs (according to a study by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center), reduced costs of care (according to a study by the RAND Corporation), higher patient volume, and reduced insurance liability.
A study found that hiring a physician extender can double the patient volume in a practice while lowering the physician’s liability rate by nearly two-thirds. Also, non-physician practitioners are known to have fewer malpractice claims and lower costs per claim. For a practice that already has at least one full-time physician, hiring a physician extender could be a smart business decision.
Increased Patient Satisfaction
Studies have found that hiring physician extenders can result in increased patient satisfaction. A survey published in Medscape found that while only 50 percent of physicians listen to their patients carefully, more than 80 percent of non-physician practitioners do so. With the healthcare system becoming increasingly competitive, the importance of patient satisfaction ratings cannot be overstated.
Adding a physician extender to your practice can go a long way in expanding the medical services you offer. It can result in increased patient volume, increased patient satisfaction, savings in salaries and overhead (compared to hiring another physician) and, consequently, increased revenues.
Larry “Max” Maxwell provides advice and consulting services to physicians and medical practices on all aspects of medical practice management. If you are thinking of adding a physician extender to your practice, get in touch with Larry “Max” Maxwell today.