The contributions of physician assistants in primary care systems

Health Soc Care Community. 2012 Jan;20(1):20-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2524.2011.01021.x. Epub 2011 Aug 18.


Shortages of primary care doctors are occurring globally; one means of meeting this demand has been the use of physician assistants (PAs). Introduced in the United States in the late 1960s to address doctor shortages, the PA movement has grown to over 75,000 providers in 2011 and spread to Australia, Canada, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Ghana and South Africa. A purposeful literature review was undertaken to assess the contribution of PAs to primary care systems. Contemporary studies suggest that PAs can contribute to the successful attainment of primary care functions, particularly the provision of comprehensive care, accessibility and accountability. Employing PAs seems a reasonable strategy for providing primary care for diverse populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Continuity of Patient Care / organization & administration
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Efficiency, Organizational
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Patient-Centered Care / organization & administration
  • Physician Assistants*
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Professional Role
  • Workforce