Background: Nurse practitioners and physician assistants (physician extenders) are playing an increased role in medical care. The purpose of this research was to determine the proportion of adults who have received health care from physician extenders.
Methods: This study used the subject population of the 1990 Kentucky Health Survey, a probability survey of all households in Kentucky. Study personnel contacted subjects using random digit telephone dialing. Subjects were then interviewed to ascertain whether subjects had received health care from physician extenders and whether they were satisfied with that care.
Results: Of 687 participating subjects, 25% had received care from physician extenders during the previous two years, primarily for minor problems and routine checkups. More than 90% of these subjects reported satisfaction with the care they received. Users of physician extenders did not differ from nonusers with respect to income, education, insurance status, self-assessment of health status, or rural versus urban location. Men used physician extenders more frequently than women.
Conclusions: A substantial proportion of the population has used physician extenders. Patient satisfaction with physician extenders is high. Use of physician extenders may be an effective strategy for improving delivery of primary care.