Do Not Gloss Over the Devastating Impacts of Policies that Declare Mid-Levels are Equivalent to Physicians

Friend of IP4PI Amy Townsend, MD writes in:

Please do not gloss over the potentially devastating impacts that Section 5 of President Trump’s Executive Order on Medicare will have on our healthcare system.  

I am a board member for Physicians for Patient Protection, a grassroots physician group that promotes physician led care.  We have been actively fighting scope of practice invasion in nearly every state for the last 3 years.  NPs and PAs can be a valuable part of a physician led team but they are not equivalent to physicians in education, training, or ability.  The government permitting them to independently practice medicine through legislation and not education will devastate healthcare.  Here are a few of my concerns:

1.  Patient safety, patient safety, patient safety!!!!

As NPs try to increase their numbers, they have sacrificed the quality of NP education.  They have created degree mills that are churning out 27,000 NPs per year.  Many schools have 100% acceptance and didactics that are 100% online and can be completed in as little as 18 months.  This is followed by a mere 500 hours of shadowing as their “clinical experience”.  Compare this to 16,000 clinical hours for a family medicine physician.  We are seeing and hearing devastating stories of misdiagnosis and mismanagement of these poorly trained practitioners daily.

2.  Medical expertise will be gradually diluted down.  

Why will our best and brightest students even try to conquer to academic rigors and expense of medical school when you can take a cheaper, less time consuming course to practicing medicine independently and have the same reimbursement (due to pay parity proposed here).  As a Family Medicine physician that has been practicing almost 15 years, I value every second of my training.  It is needed for me to be an expert at my craft.  

3.  NPs and to a lesser extent PAs, in general are corporate YES men.  

They have not been taught in their training to take ownership of patients as physicians do.  They do not take the same oath to protect patients at all costs.  If they are declared physician equals and can replace physicians, we will lose all negotiating power with corporate entities, government, and insurance companies.  If physicians stand up for patients, they will simply be replaced by a more agreeable, complacent NP.  
There are probably a million additional reasons.  But it is late and I’m sure you all are tired of reading my rant.  But I am begging you all to please give this issue it’s due respect.  The president has it WRONG on this issue.  We can not continue to have this conversations in the dark corners because we are afraid of liking like we are being mean to nurses.  Our profession, our fellow physicians, and our patients need us to speak up.  

Thank you all for your wonderful advocacy.  I believe it is people like us that can and will fix our broken system. 


Amy Townsend, MD, Family Medicine/Hospital Medicine

Debunking Myths that NPs Increase Rural Access and Lower Costs

The “increased rural access” and “lower cost” rhetoric used to support nurse practitioner autonomy is a complete fallacy and there is zero data to support these claims.  

1.  The market factors that make it difficult for physicians to practice in rural, underserved areas is not any different for NPs than it is for physicians.  NPs are not independently more altruistic than physicians.  Poor payer mix and the expense of excessive regulatory burdens will make it difficult for anyone to keep their doors open in these areas.  

2.  Look at the states that have allowed NP independent practice for decades, like Arizona.  NPs are practicing in the exact same places as physicians.  They do not go to rural areas.  There are maps available from AMA that show this quite clearly.  

3.  There are multiple studies that show NPs make more referrals to specialists, order more inappropriate radiology studies, and perform more skin biopsies than physicians.  This all INCREASES cost to the healthcare system.  In practice, I see NPs ordering tons of worthless tests in order to try to bridge the gaps in their knowledge.  They order tests and then have no idea what to do with them which leads to more tests and more referrals.  At a time when we are focused on decreasing unneeded healthcare waste, how does it make sense to use these undertrained non physicians.  

4.  If they are arguing for pay parity, how exactly do they decrease healthcare costs?

Data references demonstrating NPs increase cost and lower quality:

NPs order more biopsies: https://doc-10-58-docs.googleusercontent.com/docs/securesc/500pimnenqerpcb3jog4vu5k5j56276k/f3drubbtuuasggve85q8h4dmet2ru2n5/1570492800000/11904212300552749650/00862855625573411785/1Oa8BCwnGYyN8Qwxg4bk6NYPdEeaQETHw?e=download&nonce=5nnu0081r77o6&user=00862855625573411785&hash=rldhsra0pp9qca2lt28lrf0ccab5h8f2

NPs order more imaging: 
https://doc-04-58-docs.googleusercontent.com/docs/securesc/500pimnenqerpcb3jog4vu5k5j56276k/8gvilblg17297cb1rr7h0rg62tem57o5/1570492800000/11904212300552749650/00862855625573411785/1khlK1Uaw9ZKBES85GxnAICJW9_QUS4qi?e=download

NPs make more referrals to specialists: https://doc-0c-58-docs.googleusercontent.com/docs/securesc/500pimnenqerpcb3jog4vu5k5j56276k/pd0vv46pqfms4l8gfhefl9rtbjsjbnl9/1570492800000/11904212300552749650/00862855625573411785/1BYA0yZwLoHB0ozC8vOL6NVrHnDYj18MI?e=download

Prescribe more antibiotics =more antibiotic resistance: 
https://doc-00-58-docs.googleusercontent.com/docs/securesc/500pimnenqerpcb3jog4vu5k5j56276k/v0hj5lspvacc5qch9p312rn4hruf6b9u/1570492800000/11904212300552749650/00862855625573411785/1ifSQYhGKCQAzwqNWefUS5x7PA2G8HC5C?e=download

More general resources  https://drive.google.com/drive/mobile/folders/1FF7sTKg4XZa_L5mXpW2puGjlMU3BuwcO/1IwfXD0e5Lxk9BuJoPtD2egwQySsozxdS/1z-L86XfVOzW6KPFpolF13ltCEWrI3Vv5/1S3iJlDPUcGBiLZmVgK7CYolis8eiv41i?sort=13&direction=a