More oncology practices are looking to advanced practice nurses and other non-physician providers to meet the needs of their cancer patients. On average, practices have hired more allied health personnel, including certified oncology nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, licensed practical nurses, and medical assistants. The findings were released in The State of Cancer Care in America: 2014
, a comprehensive assessment issued by The American Society of Clinical Oncology.
The report says that the number of non-physician providers in practices is also likely to increase in the future. A majority of respondents said they planned to hire additional certified oncology nurses and nurse practitioners in the coming year. The report says that this “may reflect a concern for growing patient volume and the need to utilize non-physician providers to a greater extent in order to sustain or increase timely patient access to care.”
The report findings were also reflected in another study1
published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice, and Policy
. In this study, the authors report that physician assistants and nurse practitioners provided health education to patients with chronic illness more regularly than physicians did. The authors suggested that this could be attributed to training differences, differing roles within a clinic by provider type, or increased clinical demands on physicians.
In the study, physician assistants and nurse practitioners in general provided chronic condition-specific health education to patients with chronic conditions at a higher rate than did physicians. One potential explanation is that training programs for physician assistants and nurse practitioners may emphasize the provision of health education to patients more than training programs for physicians. In addition, the authors suggest that practices may decide that having the physician see new patients and garner the higher new-patient reimbursement while having physician assistants and nurse practitioners see return patients is a favorable allocation of resources.
1. Ritsema TS, Bingenheimer JB, Scholting P, Cawley JF. Differences in the delivery of health education to patients with chronic disease by provider type, 2005–2009. Prev Chronic Dis