Greater Access to Health Care through Nurse Practitioners
- More Likely to be Community Based
- Rural and Underserved Populations
- More Cost Effective
- Same Outcome as Physician Care
- More Holistic Approach
Almost everyone agrees there is a shortage of healthcare providers, and nurse practitioners can make access to healthcare easier for most people. Studies show that one of the greatest impediments to accessing healthcare is its skyrocketing cost. Additionally, many people live in areas where there are no locally accessible doctors, and getting medical treatment means traveling some distance. Nurse practitioners with extensive training and who offer quality healthcare can ease the problem of getting necessary care. Here a five ways nurse practitioners make access to healthcare more obtainable.
1. More likely to Be Community Based
Nurse practitioners are more likely than physicians to work from mobile clinics or to use other “novel” community health delivery systems such as workplace clinics. They are more likely to interact in the community and be trusted as insiders.
2. Rural and Underserved Populations
About half of nurse practitioners work in rural settings or low-income demographic areas. That compares with only 11 percent of doctors who work in those underserved populations. Doctors tend to locate in cities or places with larger populations, and that may result in significant travel for patients. Many people simply do not get the care they need because of the difficulty they experience in even getting to clinics or doctor’s offices. This is why states are increasingly allowing nurse practitioners more autonomous practice. Almost 50 percent of the states have such legislation, and an NP can open a private office or work through a clinic or hospital just as physicians do.
3. More Cost Effective
A study by Montana State University indicates primary care provided by a nurse practitioner ranged from 11 to 29 percent less expensive than primary physician care. This is evident in charges to Medicare beneficiaries when seen over a year’s time as opposed to a single primary care physician visit. Nurse practitioners are paid approximately 85 percent of what physicians earn.
Massachusetts studied nurse practitioner use and concluded that by allowing them more freedom to practice, the state would save between $4.2 billion to $8.4 billion over a 10 year. Patients of nurse practitioners tended to have generic prescriptions prescribed more often and had lower rates of hospitalization admissions. In short, people access nurse practitioner care more often because it is more affordable.
4. Same Outcome as Physician Care
Studies have found no difference in patient health status between those who see physicians and those whose primary care provider is a nurse practitioner. In fact, in hypertension cases, the outcome for nurse practitioner patients was better. Additionally, nurse practitioners spent more time with each patient, and that increased patient satisfaction. People are more likely to seek medical treatment if their experiences have been positive.
5. More Holistic Approach
Nurse practitioners begin their careers as registered nurses. They spend time talking with patients, seeing them through all aspects of their illness and understanding the emotional and psychological components involved in their care. They tend to work as a team. Doctors visit patients once or twice a day for a limited time, and student physicians on rounds have even less contact with them. Nurse practitioners are accustomed to looking at patient complaints in a more holistic manner which leads to more comprehensive care.
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There is room in healthcare for both physicians and nurse practitioners. One does not exclude the other, and there are differences in their training, for example, the fact that nurse practitioners do not serve residencies. Still, an NP is highly qualified to diagnose, prescribe, order tests and interpret their results and do many other things involved in quality healthcare. Whether as a specialist or a primary care family provider, the nurse practitioner makes healthcare more accessible in many ways.