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Increasing the Use of Physician Assistants Could Lead to Significant Cost Savings for the Canadian Health Care System

Monday, October 24, 2016 General News J E 4
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OTTAWA, Oct. 24, 2016 /CNW/ - Hiring more physician assistants (PAs) and effectively integrating them into health care teams could save the Canadian health care system millions in efficiency gains, according to a new report released by The Conference Board of Canada.

Canada's health care system cost Canadians $219 billion in 2015, and hospital, drugs and physician services accounted for 60 per cent of this spending. Physician assistants (PAs) could help lower Canada's health care spending, by completing more routine tasks and freeing up physicians' time.

"Faced with increased demand for health services due to an aging population and a rise in chronic disease, governments are looking for ways to innovate and improve the performance and sustainability of the health care system," said Louis Thériault, Vice-President, Public Policy, The Conference Board of Canada. "Integrating more physician assistants into health care teams could help alleviate the increase in demand, decrease wait times, and alleviate health workforce shortages."

Highlights

  • Canada's health care system cost Canadians $219 billion in 2015, and hospital, drugs and physician services accounted for 60 per cent of this spending.
  • The number of physician assistants (PAs) in Canada remains very low, but hiring more and properly integrating them into health care teams could save the Canadian health care system up to $1 billion by the year 2030.
  • Physician assistants (PAs) could help lower Canada's health care spending, by providing additional hours to physicians to help them complete more routine tasks.

Although they are relatively new in Canada, PAs provide safe care to patients in a wide range of practice areas. Manitoba has the longest history integrating PAs, followed by Ontario and New Brunswick. PAs can be an alternative for designated routine medical tasks so physicians can increasingly focus their time on tasks that are more aligned with their specialized skills. If PAs are able to relieve more than 30 per cent of physicians' time in all practice areas, this could represent $620 million in costs savings for the health care system, with greater integration efficiency gains this savings would be even higher. However, even if PAs are only able to substitute for 25 per cent of physicians' time, some overall cost savings would be realized.

More prospective and retrospective case-control research studies are needed to measure the quantitative impact of physician assistants on the Canadian health care system in order to optimize their role and the value they offer.

Gaining Efficiency: Increasing the Use of Physician Assistants in Canada is the second report in a series of briefings that aims to better understand the role and financial impact of PAs on Canada's health care system. The first report, Value of Physician Assistants: Understanding the Role of Physician Assistants Within Health Systems, was published in June 2016. Both reports were funded by the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants.

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SOURCE Conference Board of Canada

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