Patients' Acceptance of Physician's Assistants in Air Force Primary Medicine Clinics

by David Maxwell-Jolly

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Analyzes the reaction of patient populations to the reorganization of primary medicine clinics at four Air Force hospitals. Called the "panel system," the reorganization relied on large numbers of physician extenders (PEs) — physician's assistants (PAs) and primary care nurse practitioners — practicing in teams consisting of two or three PEs and supervising physician. Each team was assigned a panel of patient families. All visits were to be by appointment. PEs received favorable ratings from a majority of patients, although from 10 to 20 percent were unfavorable. Even in this group, many felt that PAs could handle some simple medical problems. Most saw the panel system as an improvement and preferred it to an all-physician alternative. The new system improved satisfaction with access to care. The results strongly support continued reliance on PEs to provide Air Force primary medical care.

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