Objective: To describe the characteristics of visits to physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) in hospital outpatient departments in the United States.
Methods: Data from the 1993 and 1994 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys were used to compare hospital outpatient department visits in which the patient was seen by a PA or NP, or both, with outpatient visits to all practitioners.
Results: An average of 64 million annual outpatient visits were made in 1993-1994, and patients were seen by PAs, NPs, or both, at 8% of these visits. PA-NP visits were more likely than total visits to occur in the Midwest, in non-urban areas, and in obstetric-gynecology clinics, and a higher proportion involved patients younger than age 25. Smaller differences were found between PA-NP visits and total outpatient visits in "reason for visit," "principal diagnosis," and "medication prescribed."
Conclusion: Beyond the care they provide in physicians' offices and other non-hospital settings, PAs and NPs make an important contribution to ambulatory health care delivery in hospital outpatient departments.