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Physician assistants, patient care and medical malpractice

With the ever-changing health care field, it should come as no surprise that patients might start to notice differences when they go to the doctor's office. One of those changes might be that you never actually see the doctor. If you are wondering exactly how that will happen, you aren't alone. Readers of our blog from Washington, District of Columbia, might find this new trend interesting.

The new trend is that patients are seeing more physician assistants instead of only doctors when they go into medical offices. These medical professionals can diagnose illnesses, order lab tests, perform exams and prescribe medications. But, does the fact that physician assistants don't have the extensive training or go through the exams like doctors mean that patients are getting adequate care? The answer is that it just depends.

In some medical centers, such as the Cleveland Clinic, physician assistants evaluate patients seeking care through the emergency department. The physician assistants see non-emergent cases but send emergency cases to a doctor. In some medical centers, however, the physician assistant is responsible for caring for ill patients and those with chronic medical conditions. This leaves the potential that some patients will receive care based on a physician assistant's limited knowledge instead of reaping the benefit of a doctor's training and experience.

A study done by the American Academy of Family Physicians last year shows that 72 percent of Americans want doctors when it comes to health care information. The chief executive officer of Global Medical Education says that the limited training physician assistants receive is one of the reasons why antidepressants are over-prescribed in the United States. Other medical professionals are echoing the same sentiment.

For patients who receive medical care from physician assistants, the possibility of medication errors and other medical negligence might occur. In those cases, the patients should know that they do have the right to seek civil remedies for any injury they receive at the hands of the physician assistant.

Source: The New York Times, "The Physician Assistant Will See You" Barbara Moran, Aug. 01, 2014

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