Some Non-Doctors Provide Care Quality Equal to Physicians: Study

Tuesday, 05 Nov 2013 02:54 PM

By Nick Tate

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With doctor shortages hitting many regions of the country, and projected grow as a result of Obamacare, the likelihood you may be getting at least some primary care from a non-physician — such as a nurse, midwife, medical assistant, or surgical clinician — is likely to increase in the years ahead. But that may not necessarily be a bad thing, research suggests.
 
A new study reported in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization has found the care provided by such mid-level healthcare workers for certain services is just as good  as when physicians perform them — and is even better, in some cases.
 
Obamacare: Massive New Rules Revealed for 2013

"Our findings debunk the myth that more extensive use of mid-level health workers might lead to services of poorer quality; despite the limitations of the evidence, it seems that in some areas they actually out-performed physicians," said lead researcher Zohra S. Lassi, M.D., with the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan. "Most of our findings point to opportunities that all countries — rich and poor alike — can exploit."
 
The study found that when care for mothers and newborn babies is provided by midwives, as opposed to physicians working with midwives, the rates are lower for episiotomy and the use of painkillers, and patient satisfaction is often higher.
 
The findings also suggested care provided by nurses instead of doctors in various fields of health — including prevention and treatment of heart disease, diabetes, mental health conditions, and HIV infection — is as effective as that provided by physicians.
 
The findings are based on analyses of 53 studies conducted in 18 countries over the last 20 years comparing the outcomes of certain types of care provided by mid-level health workers and that provided by physicians.
 
"Moving towards or sustaining universal health coverage is a challenge for all countries: traditional models of care, dominated by physician-led provision of expensive curative services in tertiary care facilities, have their limitations," said Giorgio Cometto, M.D., an adviser to the executive director of the Global Health Workforce Alliance, a WHO partnership.
 
"But when mid-level health workers are given a more prominent role, healthcare services may respond better to citizens' needs — and this approach may also save money in the long-run."

Obamacare: Massive New Rules Revealed for 2013

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