Patient Perspectives of Midlevel Providers in Orthopaedic Sports Medicine

Orthop J Sports Med. 2018 Apr 10;6(4):2325967118766873. doi: 10.1177/2325967118766873. eCollection 2018 Apr.


Background: Midlevel providers (eg, nurse practitioners and physician assistants) have been integrated into orthopaedic systems of care in response to the increasing demand for musculoskeletal care. Few studies have examined patient perspectives toward midlevel providers in orthopaedic sports medicine.

Purpose: To identify perspectives of orthopaedic sports medicine patients regarding midlevel providers, including optimal scope of practice, reimbursement equity with physicians, and importance of the physician's midlevel provider to patients when initially selecting a physician.

Study design: Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3.

Methods: A total of 690 consecutive new patients of 3 orthopaedic sports medicine physicians were prospectively administered an anonymous questionnaire prior to their first visit. Content included patient perspectives regarding midlevel provider importance in physician selection, optimal scope of practice, and reimbursement equity with physicians.

Results: Of the 690 consecutive patients who were administered the survey, 605 (87.7%) responded. Of these, 51.9% were men and 48.1% were women, with a mean age of 40.5 ± 15.7 years. More than half (51.2%) perceived no differences in training levels between physician assistants and nurse practitioners. A majority of patients (62.9%) reported that the physician's midlevel provider is an important consideration when choosing a new orthopaedic sports medicine physician. Patients had specific preferences regarding which services should be physician provided. Patients also reported specific preferences regarding those services that could be midlevel provided. There lacked a consensus on reimbursement equity for midlevel practitioners and physicians, despite 71.7% of patients responding that the physician provides a higher-quality consultation.

Conclusion: As health care becomes value driven and consumer-centric, understanding patient perspectives on midlevel providers will allow orthopaedic sports medicine physicians to optimize efficiency and patient satisfaction. Physicians may consider these data in clinical workforce planning, as patients preferred specific services to be physician or midlevel provided. It may be worthwhile to consider midlevel providers in marketing efforts, given that patients considered the credentials of the physician's midlevel provider when initially selecting a new physician. Patients lacked consensus regarding reimbursement equity between physicians and midlevel providers, despite responding that the physician provides a higher-quality consultation. Our findings are important for understanding the midlevel workforce as it continues to grow in response to the increasing demand for orthopaedic sports care.

Keywords: nurse practitioner; patient satisfaction; physician assistant; sports medicine.