The purpose of this study is to examine the cost effectiveness of mid level providers, such as physician assistants, compared to physicians. In order to thoroughly evaluate the difference in cost one must look at more than one aspect of the physician assistant versus the classic physician. From a purely economic standpoint one needs to address the cost of education, differences in the way patients are treated based on the kind of medicine practiced and the cost of employment between physician assistants and traditional physicians.
For example, some schools of thought suggest that a physician assistant may order more unnecessary tests than a physician because they are not trained well enough to know what is and is not important (Hooker, 2002). However, because many physician assistants already have training in one of the allied health fields, such as nursing, the argument can be made that the lack of additional schooling is cancelled out by the prior work experience.
In addition to the large salary differences between physician assistants and physicians the cost effectiveness, when including healthcare reform, could be astronomical due to the influx of new patients covered by health insurance.
By examining the cost effectiveness of physician assistants compared to Physicians potential healthcare employers may be able to make better economic decisions by the staffing of mid level providers versus traditional physicians. Because four physician assistants can be staffed per physician one can see the potential savings from an employer’s perspective, taking into consideration the growing workload and demand for mid level providers (Halter, 2013).
Review of Literature
The yearly cost of physician assistant school is comparable to traditional medical schools, however; the time needed to complete the PA program is half that of medical school. When considering the additional cost of traditional medical school combined with the cost to fund residency programs, lasting anywhere from three to five years, one can see the impact this has on the education sector of the economy. With all of the above taken into account the cost of attending traditional medical school versus physician assisting school more than doubles in many instances (Burnsed, 2010).
For example, let us analyze the cost of several different physician assistant schools, and then compare them to the cost of several medical schools in the nation. The cost of PA programs runs from as low as $20,000 all the way up to as much as $70,000 for the 25-month program at Duke University, the top ranked PA school in the nation. At Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio tuition for their 27-month program is $30,000. However, this figure does not include the cost of textbooks, food, lodging, a required laptop computer, lab coats, and portable diagnostic equipment. These costs can be substantial; the Duke program website quotes the total cost of attending their school runs to $135,000 when...