Into the Future: Physician Assistants Look to the 21st Century A Strategic Plan for the Physician Assistant Profession

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In 1998, the Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Health Professions contracted with the Association of Physician Assistant Programs profession (APAP) to develop a 3-year strategic plan for the physician assistant (PA) profession. This report is the culmination of the effort of this group of health care experts to offer our advice and direction. The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the work group and do not reflect the position of the Bureau of Health Professions.

Our strategic planning effort is an attempt to produce a plan that will help guide those inside and outside the PA profession with the development and direction of the profession and the education of future physician assistants.

We focused our attention on 3 major forces affecting the PA profession—the market for health care services in general; the market for PAs as a co-producer of health care services; and the market for PA education.

The future of any health profession is determined by the demand for and potential supply of health care services. There are many factors that shape the market for health care services, ranging from the fundamental need for health care to the demand for care based on such factors as income, insurance coverage, and cost. Since PAs work interdependently with their physician supervisors, changes in the demand for and supply of PAs also are made in relation to changes affecting other providers. This report assesses the changing structure of health care delivery, the historical role of the physician assistant profession, and the nature and relevance of PA education. In conclusion, we developed recommendations for the continued success of the physician assistant profession based on our assessment of the potential impact of market forces.

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