Some hospitals in Massachusetts try to save money wherever they can, and sometimes, that seems to be at patients’ expense. One common example of this is the practice of not hiring as many doctors for their ERs and instead outsourcing them. When a private equity firm is used for the staffing of these emergency rooms, it has been shown to lead to poorer care and might pose a major health risk to some patients.
The rise of midlevel practitioners in the ER
Thanks to this strategy for staffing medical centers, the diagnosis and treatment of patients have been handed off from doctors to physician assistants and nurses. These two roles make up the category of midlevel practitioners.
Both physician assistants and nurse practitioners can do many of the things that doctors are allowed to do, and the revenue they generate is comparable to how much a doctor brings in. Yet, these midlevel practitioners make less than half of what a doctor does. It’s easy to see how this saves the hospital money, and it’s equally transparent how raw of a deal this might turn out to be for patients.
Under the care of these midlevel practitioners, a patient is more likely to be misdiagnosed, all while they rack up a steep medical bill in the process. And after all that, the care you receive might still not be enough.
Increased stays and higher readmission rates
Some studies have shown increases in how long patients have to stay in the hospital when nurse practitioners are allowed to handle patients’ treatment without a doctor’s oversight. The problem only gets worse the more severe the condition is. Treatment may be mishandled due to medical malpractice, and misdiagnosis can delay proper care significantly.
When you’re treated by a nurse practitioner or a PA, the level of care you receive depends heavily on their experience level. This means you don’t necessarily know what you’re going to get when you go in for a visit. One study showed a 20% increase in readmission rates among ER patients who received their treatment from a nurse practitioner.
Some experts have pointed out that these findings don’t necessarily mean that nurse practitioners should be completely done away with in the ER. Rather, this information can hopefully be used as guidance for the best use of these midlevel providers in such high-stakes situations, whether that means treating simple cases or providing stepping in only when a doctor isn’t available.