Family physicians and physician assistants, or PAs, have long recognized that they share a common goal of providing team-based, patient-centered care. That shared goal now has led the AAFP and the American Academy of Physician Assistants, or AAPA, to call for legal, regulatory and payment policies at both the state and national levels that recognize PAs as an integral part of a team-oriented practice model, such as the patient-centered medical home.
The statement also calls for educational innovations that encourage interprofessional training of medical students, family medicine residents and PA students.
"Our nation needs a health care system that takes advantage of the clinical skills and expertise of physician assistants," said AAFP President Roland Goertz, M.D., M.B.A., of Waco, Texas, in a Feb. 22 news release announcing the release of an AAFP-AAPA joint policy statement, Family Physicians and Physician Assistants: Team-Based Family Medicine(14 page PDF). "Their education trains them to work collaboratively in providing a wide range of primary care services. The expertise they bring to the health care team can improve coordination, patient satisfaction and access to care."
AAPA President Patrick Killeen, M.S., PA-C, echoed Goertz's call for collaboration. "The PA profession fundamentally believes that patients are best served by clinicians who combine their skills and experience to deliver coordinated, team-based care," he said. "I can think of no better way to strengthen the physician-PA team than starting when they are students and educating them in integrated programs."
Accordingly, the joint statement offers these six policy positions:
- The AAFP and the AAPA believe that family physicians and PAs working together in a team-oriented practice, such as the patient-centered medical home, is a proven model for delivering high-quality, cost-effective patient care. National and state legal, regulatory and payment policies should recognize that PAs function as primary care providers in the patient-centered medical home as part of a multidisciplinary, physician-directed clinical team.
- The AAFP and the AAPA encourage interprofessional education of medical students, family medicine residents and PA students throughout their educational programs.
- The AAFP and the AAPA encourage education programs of both professions to expand family medicine rotation sites for PA students, medical students and residents.
- The AAFP and the AAPA should continue to be represented on the accrediting and certifying bodies of the PA profession (i.e., the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant and the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, respectively).
- The AAFP and the AAPA believe that national workforce policies should ensure adequate supplies of family physicians and PAs in family medicine to improve access to quality care and to avert anticipated shortages of primary care clinicians.
- The AAFP and the AAPA promote flexibility in federal and state regulation so that each medical practice determines, within a defined spectrum, appropriate clinical roles within the medical team, physician-to-PA ratios and supervision processes, enabling each clinician to work to the fullest extent of his or her education and expertise.
"The future of health care delivery will require interprofessional teams of health care professionals working together to provide patient-centered care," says the statement. "AAFP and AAPA are committed to building on the common ground that family physicians and PAs share in order to ensure an adequate, well-educated family medicine workforce to meet the health care needs of the U.S. population."