In the recent webinar, Planning for 2015: Make It a Best Practice Year, an attendee asked about hiring a Nurse Practitioner (NP). Whether or not to add new providers, especially NPs, is a hot topic right now for many practices. And, in a lot of different circumstances it is a great option.
However, practice managers and physicians worry about how patients will perceive seeing a NP instead of a physician. "NPs can be a great addition to your practice," says practice management consultant Judy Capko, who hosted the webinar. "It often depends on your demographics and competition or specialty. If you have retail clinics staffed by mid-level providers in your area, it may not be unusual to people at all and could allow you to offer the same type of last minute, same day, and walk in appointments as those clinics. Many people are open to seeing a midlevel to get faster access, especially for urgent needs. In some specialties like orthopedics and surgery where patients can have many pre-op or post-op visits, offering services from NPs or PAs can also improve and speed access to care. Whatever the situation, one way to help ensure patients are comfortable is to always appear as a united team of providers dedicated to your patients’ wellbeing."
Building a practice with a mix of providers is a growing a trend as practices look to stay competitive with retail clinics.
Recent studies suggest that by next year there may be as many as 3,000 retail clinics nationwide. Independent practices will need to find ways to offer more flexible access to care. That could be with extended hours, same day, and walk-in appointments, or by offering specialty services.
Adding a NP can also help patients who are paying more of their own healthcare expenses. While many preventive care visits are now fully covered, patients have to pay more for urgent needs like flu or a sprain. With high deductible plans and HSAs, the whole burden of that cost could fall on the patient now. Often the charge for seeing a NP is less than it is for seeing a physician. Practices that offer a NP as an affordable option that is also quickly accessible are actually meeting patients needs more effectively.
Just remember that you need to present this new option to patients as a benefit to them. As with all new services, be sure to create a marketing plan and communicate with patients consistently and regularly through your newsletter, website, and/or social media channels. Focus on your dedication to meeting patient needs. Help them get to know your new provider. With changing patient expectations today, focusing on your relationship with the patient and your dedication to meeting their needs will only benefit your practice in the long run.