A Survey of Kansas Physicians' Perceptions of Physician Assistant Education and Qualifications
Keywords:physician assistants, education, primary care access, primary care health, primary care physicians, Kansas
BACKGROUND: Effective physician-physician assistant (PA) teams improve patient access and satisfaction, and increase productivity and revenue while reducing physician workload. This survey assessed perceptions of Kansas primary care physicians regarding educational requirements and qualifications of PAs, professional and legal regulations, and the most important skills and competencies for PAs to possess. Understanding these perceptions may lead to improved communication and refined expectations of physician-physician assistant teams, thereby increasing their utilization and effectiveness. METHODS: A 20-question survey was emailed to all 1,551 primary care physicians registered with the Kansas Board of Healing Arts in 2012. Descriptive data were reported as frequencies; comparisons between groups were analyzed using Chi-square. RESULTS: The response rate was 9.2% (n = 143). Physicians were highly accurate regarding the program’s generalist/primary care educational model and moderately accurate regarding the degree awarded, average pre-program grade point average, lock-step full-time curriculum, weeks of clinical rotations, recertification and continuing medical education hours, and Medicare PA fee schedule. Physicians had low accuracy regarding program and pharmacology credit hours, strict dismissal policy, pre-program healthcare experience, and co-signatory regulations. Physicians with PA supervisory experience had higher knowledge than those without (p = 0.001). Physicians most commonly selected history taking and performing physical exam as the most important skill (49%) and providing patient care that is patient-centered, efficient, and equitable as the most important competency (42%). CONCLUSIONS: Physicians often underestimated the average PA applicant qualifications, program rigor and intensity, professional regulatory standards, and co-signatory requirements. Correcting misperceptions and improving understanding of which PA skills and competencies are most valued by physicians may optimize PAs as part of the healthcare team.
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