Study Shows Care Provided by NPs and MDs in Community Health Centers Does Not Differ

March 21st, 2017

A recent study conducted by George Washington University about how care provided by a nurse practitioner compares with care provided by a physician at community health centers shows it does not differ.

This newest paper on care in community health centers was published Feb. 24 in the journal Medical Care. “Findings from our study should be reassuring to patients who rely on community health centers for their care,” said Ellen Kurtzman, associate professor in the George Washington School of Nursing and lead author of the paper. “We found that care is likely to be comparable regardless of whether patients are seen by a nurse practitioner, physician assistant or physician.”

Dr. Kurtzman and her team used five years of data (2006-2010) from the Health Center subsample of the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. They analyzed 23,704 patient visits to 1139 practitioners and examined nine patient-level outcomes measured by three quality indicators (smoking cessation, depression, ordering/prescribing of statins for patients with high levels of fat particles in the blood), four service utilization measures (physical exams, number of health education services, imaging services and total number of medications) and two referral pattern measures (physician referrals and return visits). 1

“This study adds to the large body of evidence showing that the care that nurse practitioners provide in an ambulatory care situation where nurse practitioners have the same authority as primary care physicians, patients’ outcomes were comparable,” states Andrea Marcotte, MSN, FNP, GNP, WellOne Primary Medical and Dental Care’s Chief Medical Officer. “We know that some people still hold the opinion that a physician provides better care than advanced practiced nurses (APRNs), but we’re discovering more and more through patient outcomes, research studies and patient satisfaction surveys that this perception is changing.”

“With the increase demand for primary medical care, WellOne, like many other community health centers, has turned to nurse practitioners and physician assistants to fulfill staffing needs,” continued Marcotte. “As WellOne continues to grow, we are always looking for skilled and compassionate providers who embrace our mission of providing excellent primary medical, dental and behavioral health services to the residents of the Rhode Island communities that we serve. Our emphasis is to promote the highest quality of health for the individual and family as well as for the community.”

WellOne is one of nine community health centers in Rhode Island who employ nurse practitioners and physician assistants in their practices. According to Marcotte, WellOne currently employs 11 nurse practitioners, 2 physician assistants and 4 physicians at their facilities in Pascoag, Foster, North Kingstown and North Scituate.

1 “A Comparison of Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants and Primary Care Physicians’ Patterns of Practice and Quality of Care in Health Centers,” Kurtzman, Ellen T. PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN; Barnow, Burt S. PhD, Medical Care (official Journal of the Medical Care section, American Public Health Association).

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