Physician assistants offer excellent care like doctors

Dear Dr. Roach: My 95-year-old mother has been going to the same doctor for about 30 years and swears he walks on water.

I, however, have a slightly different opinion. In the past three years, she has seen only the physician assistant; the doctor is nowhere to be found.

The PA examines Mom and seems to be knowledgeable. The PA doles out any prescriptions and provides all medical advice without having that degree.

Is this the norm now for doctors’ offices in this country? Better yet, should it be? — T.H.

Answer: My personal experience with physician assistants is that they give excellent care.

Several well-done studies have shown that the level of care provided by physician assistants (and nurse practitioners) is indistinguishable from care provided by MDs, with the exception that NPs and PAs tend to provide more health education and counseling, and may recommend smoking cessation more often.

Any clinician has a range of medical conditions he or she is competent to practice in.

Physicians tend to have a broader range of expertise than most PAs and NPs (this is not universally the case, however). When directly supervised by a physician, the PA has the expertise of the physician immediately available.

Based on the data and my experience, I have no reason to think your mother is getting anything other than great care.

Personally, I prefer to see my patients myself, but I understand the need for help in a busy practice.

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