Envision Healthcare continues to lead as the U.S. healthcare system transitions from a fee-for-service model to value-based care. Advanced Practice Providers (APP) are integral to our success in delivering quality, patient-centered care. 

APPs consist of physician assistants (PA), nurse practitioners (NP), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) and anesthesiologist assistants (AA) who have a diverse skill set that supports the delivery of high-quality, cost-effective care in a variety of settings. Their ability to provide care in underserved and rural communities, as well as their adaptability to provide care in numerous settings, including virtually, makes them valuable team members.

With COVID-19, the healthcare system has had to innovate rapidly, and with constant change and new challenges, APPs have been there, deploying to hot spots and stepping in wherever necessary for their teammates and patients.

For example, in Yuma, Arizona, a rapid decision unit serving as a preliminary screening center to direct patients to the appropriate care setting was scheduled to open in spring 2020. COVID-19 delayed its opening. The APPs planned to work in the unit set up a parking lot tent to triage emergency patients. They immediately provided 24-hour coverage to augment the hospital’s services.

Flexibility, innovation and the ability to overcome challenges are essential hallmarks of high-quality medical care. As an increasing number of health systems base payment models on the value provided to patients, care quality is more important than ever. Quality is measurable, regardless of who the provider is. Because APPs are on the frontlines caring for patients, they have detailed, real-time patient insight and can provide personalized care, improving results and patient satisfaction alike. 

The integration of APPs in diverse care teams leads to more cost-efficient healthcare. Health Affairs reported that the use of NPs and PAs as primary care providers for patients with diabetes was associated with less use of acute care services and lower total costs. Building care teams with APPs can decrease the need for acute care and simultaneously eliminate high costs associated with those services.

The rapid acceleration of virtual health due to COVID-19 has altered the way more patients receive care. APPs, once again, have adapted to these new modalities. By increasing the use of virtual health, APPs can remotely provide routine care and triage before emergency department admittance, preserving essential personal protective equipment and reducing the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Virtual health also connects APPs to rural communities that may not have easy access to traditional in-person care.

As we look to the future of healthcare, there are several exciting ways the role of APPs will continue evolving. APPs will keep helping solve some of healthcare’s most pressing challenges and improving the delivery of patient care. APPs, alongside physicians, nurses and clinical staff, will improve clinical outcomes, the patient experience and the cost of care.

However, critical steps must be taken to ensure the full potential of this workforce is harnessed. Expanding APP leadership roles and opportunities within medical groups will be a key factor in safeguarding success in these new value-based models. As a national medical group, our APP leaders help make the future of medicine – reduced costs, enhanced patient experience and improved quality – a reality within reach.

Caroline Hodge, MS MBA PAC
Caroline Hodge is a New Jersey-based certified physician assistant and Vice President of Advanced Practice Providers (APP) at Envision, leading emergency and hospital medicine APPs. She is dedicated to enhancing the quality of patient care and creating an optimal environment for healthcare teams.