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A new study by the Association of American Medical Colleges has found that half of all study participants preferred receiving care from a doctor. This isn’t particularly surprising. What is a bit surprising though is that many participants were willing to see a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant instead if it meant that they would be guaranteed timely access.

If guaranteed an appointment that day, 60 percent of those surveyed said that they would opt to see a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner if they had a worsening cough. Comparatively, only 25 percent said they were willing to wait an extra day to see a physician. Study results along these lines might suggest a sea change in the way Americans view healthcare and may be brought on by the medical personnel shortages currently seen in the US.

America’s Doctor Shortage

In the US, there is a widening gap forming between the capacity of medical institutions and the public need for healthcare. This is especially true in the case of physicians; by 2020, the American Association of Medical Colleges believes that America will be populated by about 90,000 less doctors than what healthcare needs dictate.

This doctor shortage can be linked to the aging Baby Boomer population. Americans over the age of 65 represent the largest group of healthcare consumers. According to estimates by the US Census Bureau, the number of Americans over age 65 is set to double by 2060.

An additional strain on medical resources comes as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Many previously uninsured individuals will no doubt benefit from this legislation and enjoy greater health. But this legislation also means that millions of individuals who were previously unaccounted for by the healthcare system will now be looking for primary care doctors.

Nurse Practitioners, Physician’s Assistants and Changing Attitudes

The numbers recently released by the American Association of Medical Colleges in 2013 contradict findings from last year. A 2012 survey by the American Medical Association found that Americans heavily favored a medical scenario in which a doctor was the head of the team responsible for their health. According to the AMA’s survey from last year, a full three quarters of all surveyed said that they would prefer a doctor administering their treatment, even if they had to wait longer for an appointment and the associated financial costs were greater.

Attitudes seem to be changing about using nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants as a primary care option. Still, action behind these changing attitudes may be slow in coming. Although many pronounce willingness to see a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant, only 8 percent of people used one as their primary care option in 2012.

According to the researchers, the changing attitude toward physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners is mostly a reflection of a desire for more timely care. People still prefer to be seen by a doctor. But because it is becoming increasingly difficult to secure an appointment with a doctor in a timely fashion, many are now willing to settle for a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant instead. With healthcare shortages only set to increase, an increase in these types of medical professionals being called upon as primary care providers seems a logical development as well.

Author: Justin covers recent developments in the healthcare and personal fitness industries. When he’s not writing, Justin works full-time in medical billing services, and practice management for emergency care centers.
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