Research Finds that Expanding PA Staffing at Hospitals is Correlated with Lower Cost of Care and Similar Patient Outcomes

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management adds to the body of knowledge suggesting that physician assistants offer high quality care at a lower cost than physicians.

Researchers examined data from a community hospital in Maryland between January 2012 and June 2013. The 384-bed hospital had two staffing groups. One was “conventional” with nine physicians and two physician assistants. The other expanded its PA staff, so that it had three physicians and three physician assistants.

The hospital employed the group comprised primarily of physicians while the expanded PA group were part of a contracted hospitalist group (Physicians Inpatient Care Specialists).

The study encompassed more than 90% of inpatients receiving internal medical treatment. The researchers compared a number of factors between the two groups comprised of nearly 17,000 adult patents:

  • In-hospital mortality
  • Length of stay
  • Readmission
  • Cost of care
  • Consultant use

While cost of care was lower in the group with a larger number of PAs, the other factors remained the same.

The data on the difference in the cost of care was highly significant and had a probability factor indicating that the likelihood of this difference being due to chance was less than 0.1%. The analysis of the other factors indicated that they met the gold standard of 95% probability.

To the researchers’ knowledge, this study was the first to compare care provided by hospitalist groups comprised of expanded PAs versus a hospitalist group with a greater proportion of attending physicians during the same time at the same hospital.

The researchers concluded that expanding the role of PAs provides a cost-effective way to obtain a similar level of care.