Expanding the pool
The story “Primary Dispute” (April 5, p. 28) hits on the undeniable reality that healthcare reform will bring an influx of patients into our healthcare system and that enabling access to healthcare professionals who are not doctors of medicine or osteopathy will be critical to meeting growing demand.
Using well-educated and skilled healthcare professionals to deliver this care ought not to be controversial in the least. Research has consistently demonstrated that “extender” healthcare professionals safely deliver high quality care. While physicians paint a scary picture that providers will “get in over their heads,” the truth is that the rhetoric doesn’t hold up against the research. The scope of practice of all providers is clearly defined within the required skills and training of each healthcare professional, and if issues develop that are outside the provider’s expertise, then patients are referred. Patients are not being cared for on a deserted island, isolated from physicians. Instead, they should have access to the healthcare professional that suits their health and wellness needs.
Additionally, the idea that an MD is a prerequisite to providing care to patients is out of touch. The key question is whether the right provider with the right skills is caring for the right health concerns. If we want to be successful in improving our healthcare system, we must do a better job of using non-MD/DO healthcare professionals who can lower costs and maintain (and even improve) quality for patients.
We were encouraged to see some physician groups acknowledging the importance of healthcare professions partnering with one another, not fighting for “turf,” so that we can meet the growing needs of patients. Unfortunately, the American Medical Association’s efforts to limit the practice scopes of non-- MD/DO professionals run counter to everything patients need right now – quality, access and affordability.
Karen E. Howard, American Association of Naturopathic Physicians Maureen Shekleton, American Association of Nurse Anesthetists On behalf of the Coalition for Patients’ Rights