NPs, PAs may help practices work at full speed

Nonphysician providers (NNPs) may play an important role in the viability of cardiology practices in coming years, according to a report by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). The report outlined the roles of NNPs and how they contribute to healthcare initiatives.

The term NNP covers a spectrum of trained and licensed practitioners such as nurse practitioners or physician assistants who in some circumstances work under the supervision of a physician and in others more independently. Depending on their role, they may handle administrative or clinical duties.

They can assist with in-office and hospital surgical procedures, help coordinate patient care, get patient histories, chart clinical findings, develop and monitor treatment plans and even make referrals. The scope of their work varies by state.

“This staffing model is being implemented more frequently because it allows NPPs to work at the top of their licensure and ensures physicians more time to devote to complex cases,” said Laura Palmer, MGMA senior industry analyst, in a statement. “Staffing a practice in this way can improve access options for patients.”  

According to MGMA data, in cardiology the addition of NNPs also can contribute to the bottom line. A 2013 analysis showed that cardiology practices using full time-equivalent NNPs reported almost $200,000 more in total compensation than did cardiology practices without NNPs. The gap was narrower for interventional cardiology—about $50,000.

Cardiology practices should consider near-term needs when evaluating whether to add NNPs to the pay roll. They should weigh trends such as physician shortages, patient demographics and potential increased demand under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act when making decisions, according to the report.

The report, “NNP Utilization in the Future of U.S. Healthcare,” was released April 8.