Objective: To measure the economic benefit of a family/general medicine physician assistant (PA) practice.
Study design: Qualitative description of a model PA practice in a family/general medicine practice office setting, and comparison of the financial productivity of a PA practice with that of a non-PA (physician-only) practice.
Methods: The study site was a family/general medicine practice office in southwestern Pennsylvania. The description of PA practice was obtained through direct observation and semistructured interviews during site visits in 1998. Comparison of site practice characteristics with published national statistics was performed to confirm the site's usefulness as a model practice. Data used for PA productivity analyses were obtained from site visits, interviews, office billing records, office appointment logs, and national organizations.
Results: The PA in the model practice had a same-task substitution ratio of 0.86 compared with the supervising physician. The PA was economically beneficial for the practice, with a compensation-to-production ratio of 0.36. Compared with a practice employing a full-time physician, the annual financial differential of a practice employing a full-time PA was $52,592. Sensitivity analyses illustrated the economic benefit of a PA practice in a variety of theoretical family/general medicine practice office settings.
Conclusions: Family/general medicine PAs are of significant economic benefit to practices that employ them.