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Health Aff (Millwood). 2013 Jun;32(6):1135-42. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2012.1150.

Survey shows consumers open to a greater role for physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

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  • 1Center for Workforce Studies, Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Washington, DC, USA.


Impending physician shortages in the United States will necessitate greater reliance on physician assistants and nurse practitioners, particularly in primary care. But how willing are Americans to accept that change? This study examines provider preferences from patients' perspective, using data from the Association of American Medical Colleges' Consumer Survey. We found that about half of the respondents preferred to have a physician as their primary care provider. However, when presented with scenarios wherein they could see a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner sooner than a physician, most elected to see one of the other health care professionals instead of waiting. Although our findings provide evidence that US consumers are open to the idea of receiving care from physician assistants and nurse practitioners, it is important to consider barriers to more widespread use, such as scope-of-practice regulations. Policy makers should incorporate such evidence into solutions for the physician shortage.


Consumer Issues; Nurse Practitioner; Physician Assistant; Physicians; Workforce Issues

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