German GPs' willingness to expand roles of physician assistants: a regional survey of perceptions and informal practices influencing uptake of health reforms in primary health care

Fam Pract. 2012 Aug;29(4):448-54. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmr127. Epub 2012 Jan 27.


Background: Many countries with shortages in health personnel are introducing task shifting in primary health care. GPs' attitudes and practices strongly affect task shifting and the expansion of the roles of physician assistants (PAs).

Objective: To assess, in a German state with shortages of health personnel, the overall willingness of GPs to delegate home visit tasks to PAs and to elicit their perceptions of barriers to and benefits of such delegation and the current practice of informal delegation.

Methods: Postal self-administered anonymous survey of all practicing GPs in the rural state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Main outcomes were GPs' willingness to delegate in home visit tasks to a properly trained PA, perceived barriers to and benefits of home visit delegation and current practice of informal delegation. Using multinomial logistic regression, associations were identified among outcome variables, and characteristics of the GPs and of their practices.

Results: Response rate was 47%. Responders (500) were comparable to all GPs in the state (1096); 48% of practitioners are willing to delegate home visits tasks to PAs. The main barrier to delegation was the related costs of PAs' training (34%), and the main benefit that it 'saves the GP's time' (67%). The 46% of practitioners who are informally delegating home visit tasks were significantly more likely be younger [odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CI)] [OR = 0.96 (0.93-0.99)] and female [OR = 1.70 (1.12-2.58)].

Conclusion: The increasing proportion of women in family medicine might favor task shifting in General Practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Female
  • General Practice / organization & administration*
  • General Practitioners / psychology*
  • Germany
  • Health Care Reform
  • Health Care Surveys
  • House Calls*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personnel Delegation*
  • Physician Assistants*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration
  • Professional Role
  • Rural Health Services / organization & administration
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workforce