With millions of newly insured patients entering the healthcare system as a result of Obamacare, the demand for family practice doctors has increased astronomically.
There aren’t nearly enough general practitioner MDs to go around. By 2025, there will be a national shortage of up to 31,100 family physicians and internists, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
To handle the patient overflow, MDs increasingly rely on physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs). At many clinics, patients rarely see their primary-care physician, and many of them aren’t happy about it.
About 72 percent of patients would rather see an MD than a PA, according to a recent national survey.
But should you be worried about seeing an MD instead of a PA or NP?
Not necessarily, experts say. But it depends on why you’re seeing a healthcare professional.
Most PAs or NPs are perfectly able to treat minor conditions. But more serious disorders require the attention of an MD.
“The vast majority of medicine is routine,” says Tom Ahern, a certified PA with nearly 40 years of experience. “I would say that 99 percent of the time it’s OK to see the PA.”
Although both PAs and NPs can diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medications, and order/interpret tests, there are some differences.