25% of US health visits are conducted by a non-physician

Over a 6-year period 25 percent of U.S. health visits were conducted by a non-physician, according to Harvard Medical School researchers. 

Advanced care delivered by nurse practitioner and physician assistant roles first emerged in the 1960s, and now in 2023, nurse practitioner is the fastest growing career nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Physician assistants also landed on the list of the nation's fastest growing careers, taking the 17th spot. 

For the study, which was published Sept. 14 in the British Medical Journal, researchers analyzed data from 276 million patient visits between 2013 and 2019 and found that during this time frame, there was an 89 percent increase in visits conducted by nurse practitioners and a 60 percent increase in visits conducted by physician assistants.

As the professions continue to grow, there has also been ongoing debate about whether or not the individuals who hold these credentials should be able to use the title of "Dr." 

"The U.S. has fewer physicians per capita than most of our peer nations. Who is going to provide that care? The number of nurse practitioners and physician assistants has grown more quickly than the number of physicians," Ateev Mehrotra, MD, study co-author and professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School, stated to Harvard Medicine News. "And this trend will only continue as we move forward… Most of the research agrees that all three professions can do a good job delivering care in most settings, especially primary care. And it turns out that there is not a significant difference in spending. But there are clinical conditions that might be better suited to one profession or another."

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