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Number of physician assistants doubles over past decade

The number of physician assistants has grown dramatically as well as the number working in specialty care, according to an annual census report issued Sept. 8 by the American Academy of Physician Assistants. "There's a true increase in demand from all sectors of the health care community recognizing the value of the physician assistant as part of the team," said Michael Powe, AAPA's vice president of reimbursement and professional advocacy. A total of 40,469 physician assistants were practicing in 2000. The number grew to 83,466 in 2010. Other surveys also have noted that physician assistants, along with nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives, have become common in medicine. A data brief issued Aug. 17 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics found that 49% of physicians worked with the allied practitioners. Experts say the shift is a result of changing payment patterns. Payment of physician assistant services is mo ...

Part-time surgeons would help ease shortage

Employing more part-timers may help reduce the nation's surgeon shortage by 2030, says a study in the September issue of the Journal of American College of Surgeons. Allowing surgeons to work part time would encourage them to remain in practice longer and help them achieve a better work-life balance, the study said. "Let's look at what we can do to keep people we are losing," said lead study author Bhagwan Satiani, MD, a vascular surgeon and professor of surgery at The Ohio State University Medical Center. He works part time as a surgeon. "This opens the door for people to stay in practice. ... People who have a balanced lifestyle are going to have a lower burnout rate." Dr. Satiani and his colleagues used a 2005 work force baseline of 99,000 surgeons in various specialties and estimated that 3,635 board certificates are granted each year. They said the average surgeon practices 30 years, with 3,300 retiring each year. They analyzed what would happen if one quarter, half or ...

GAO urges Medicare to seek physician input on feedback reports

Washington -- A congressional watchdog group said more needs to be done to engage physicians before the government begins setting Medicare payments based on physician performance and quality of care. Federal statute requires the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to send feedback reports analyzing the amount of Medicare spending incurred by individual physicians and comparing the resources used against those utilized by their peers. Starting in 2015, CMS will pay some physicians and medical groups based on information in this feedback program. All physicians will be subject to a "value-based payment modifier" starting in 2017. A Government Accountability Office report released in August was critical of CMS' work on the feedback program to date. CMS created feedback reports for a small percentage of physicians during the initial phases of the program, but a large number of those doctors failed to access the information. "CMS will need to do more to solicit input and react ...