More nurse practitioners in primary care a plus, study finds

Primary care practices are increasingly embracing the use of nurse practitioners, which could improve healthcare delivery overall, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

For the study, researchers used SK&A data, as well as information from the Area Health Resources Files, to determine trends in the number of nurse practitioners in primary care practices, or to learn how state policies like Medicaid expansion may affect nurse practitioner use in primary care.

The study found rural practices are increasingly using nurse practitioners,where their numbers increased from 17.6 percent of rural providers in 2008 to 25.2 percent in 2016. Nurse practitioners also increased in nonrural primary care practices, from 15.9 percent of providers in 2008 to 23 percent in 2016.

In general, rural practices in states with full scopes of practice had the highest percentages of practices with nurse practitioners during the studied time period. Researchers found rural practices in those states saw the percentage of practices with nurse practitioners increase from 35 percent in 2008 to 45.5 percent in 2016.

Nurse practitioner growth was even faster among rural practices in states with reduced and restricted scopes of practice, but researchers found no significant link between Medicaid expansion states and greater nurse practitioner presence.

"Overall, primary care practices are embracing interdisciplinary provider configurations, and including NPs as providers can strengthen healthcare delivery," the study's authors concluded.


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