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Tags: nurse | practitioner | primary | care | doctor

Nurse Practitioners Providing More Primary Care

By    |   Monday, 15 July 2013 03:46 PM EDT

Your next doctor exam is more likely than not to be conducted by a nurse practitioner instead of a physician, depending on where you live, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston who tracked trends among doctors' offices across the country found those states with the fewest restrictions on nurse practitioners' scope of practice had 2.5 times more patients receiving primary care from nurse practitioners than did the most restrictive states.
That trend is likely to continue, with the nation facing a shortage of primary care physicians. Those shortages have pushed some states in recent years to relax regulations that restrict nurse practitioners who want to work as primary care providers.
"We wanted to look at what happened in states that allowed nurse practitioners more or less authority," said Yong-Fang Kuo, lead author of the study, published in the journal Health Affairs. "As you would expect, it makes a big difference. We can now clearly show that states with fewer regulations means more patients get the primary care they need."
Increasing access to primary care is a key focus of national health reform efforts. But fewer medical students are choosing primary care over more lucrative medical specialty fields. In 1998, about 60 percent of U.S. medical students chose careers in primary care, compared to just 25 percent today, researchers noted.
In the meantime, there has been an increase in nurse practitioner training programs over the past two decades. The new UTMB study tracked care provided by nurse practitioners from 1998 to 2010 using state records and national Medicare data. The researchers found that the number of patients seeing nurse practitioners as their primary care provider soared from only 0.2 percent of Medicare patients nationwide in 1998 to 2.9 percent in 2010.
Over that 12-year period, the highest growth in nurse practitioner primary care was in states that allowed them to practice and prescribe independently: Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Maine, Oregon, and Vermont.
The study was funded, in part, by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the National Institute on Aging, the National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Research Resources, National Institutes of Health.

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Your next doctor exam is more likely than not to be conducted by a nurse practitioner instead of a physician, depending on where you live, a new study finds.
Monday, 15 July 2013 03:46 PM
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