SARANAC LAKE - Adirondack Health says its certified physician assistants are key members of its medical team.
In recognition of National Physician Assistant Week, which began Sunday and runs through the end of the week, Adirondack Health issued a press release commending the work of its staff of physician assistants, including the 12 PAs who work in its emergency departments in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid plus those in its primary care centers and inpatient care areas.
The emergency department PAs are overseen by Dr. Anthony Dowidowicz, medical director of emergency services, and Certified Physician Assistant Roy "Skip" Parker.
Physician Assistant Roy “Skip” Parker and Dr. Anthony Dowidowicz, medical director of emergency services for Adirondack Health, consult on a patient case.
"I am proud to say this is a PA-driven program," Dowidowicz said."We encourage PAs to perform autonomously, and our data demonstrates they deliver great outcomes and consistent, high quality care."
Hospital officials say the demand for emergency services is declining in the area, largely due to a medical home demonstration project that emphasizes prevention and better management of chronic conditions to help patients avoid repeated visits to the emergency room.
"PAs will continue to be in high demand in these new healthcare delivery models," Dowidowicz said. "Studies show they have high patient satisfactions scores and are cost effective."
Certified physician assistants are highly educated medical providers who graduate from accredited, masters-degree-level PA programs, pass a rigorous national certification exam and maintain certification through ongoing education and recertification exams. They are also licensed by state medical boards.
Certified PAs practice medicine with the supervision of a physician. They routinely obtain medical histories; examine, diagnose and treat patients; order and interpret diagnostic tests; and develop and implement treatment plans. They can perform minor surgery and assist in major surgery, instruct and counsel patients, order or carry out therapy and prescribe medications.
According to self-reported data collected by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, each week certified PAs work 3.8 million hours and see 7 million patients. Over 9,500 of the nation's approximately 92,000 certified PAs practice in New York state.
Why PAs are in demand
-Provisions in the Affordable Care Act that will make private or federally subsidized insurance available to 36 million individuals, starting in 2014
-Aging baby boomers who are being added to the Medicare rolls at a rate of almost 11,000 seniors every day
-A shortage of 66,000 primary care physicians by 2020, begging the question: who will care for all these new patients as they enter the healthcare system?
This new environment calls for a team-based approach to delivering coordinated health care, and the physician-PA team concept is working and growing in every state, specialty and medical setting.
Parker said he's seen a lot of change in the profession over the course of his career.
"There is a mutual respect between PAs and physicians, and I am included as a member of the credentialing committee," he said. "PAs at this medical center even teach new physicians procedures, like spinal taps, that we have done frequently. So it is obviously important to keep skills sharp."
Parker was one of the first PAs in New York to earn the Certificate of Added Qualification in Emergency Medicine from the NCCPA. The CAQ credential recognizes experience, education and qualifications in emergency medicine, and requires recipients to pass a national exam in the specialty.
Dowidowicz said Adirondack Medical Center uses the CAQ "as a standard for PAs in emergency medicine as a measure to prove their high-level of competence."
Parker, who will retire soon after nearly four decades as a PA, said he has enjoyed his career.
"This is a great place to work, and I sense tremendous respect from my peers and physicians," he said "This is a small community, and people are appreciative. There is a wonderful connection with patients when they say 'Thank you.' It is very rewarding."