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Nurse practitioners are increasingly playing a key role in helping patients stay on track in taking their medications as prescribed, with nearly half of NPs indicating that the time they spend on patient education has increased over the past two years, according to Manhattan Research’s “Taking the Pulse Nurses 2013” study.
Highlighting the important role that NPs play in today’s healthcare system is essential as millions of uninsured Americans come into the insurance fold in 2014 due to health reform amid a growing shortage of primary care physicians.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 67 million people in the United States live in a primacy care shortage area. “And for Americans who do have a regular physician, only 57% report having access to same- or next-day appointments, and 63% [have] difficulty getting access to care on nights, weekends or holidays without going to the emergency room. … 20% of adults waited six days or more to see a doctor when they were sick in 2010,” Marketdata Enterprises noted in a study released in September 2012. It is estimated that the primary care physician shortage will reach about 60,000 by 2015.
Turning to NPs to help fill the gap in healthcare and understanding the vital function they play in helping patients’ live healthier lives is critical, and it is no secret that medication non-adherence is a serious issue in this country. In fact, annual excess healthcare costs because of medication non-adherence in the United States have been estimated to be as much as $290 billion annually. And, according to the Congressional Budget Office, a 5% increase in the use of prescriptions by Medicare patients would result in a 1% decrease in medical and hospital spending.
Furthermore, the need for more accessible and affordable primary-care alternatives is also one factor behind the decision by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American College of Nurse Practitioners to merge their organizations as of January 2013. With approximately 40,000 members, the new organization, known as the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, or AANP, provides NPs with a platform to speak with one voice to more effectively serve patients.
That’s why studies such as the one conducted by Manhattan Research are important — this country’s strained healthcare system needs accessible primary-care alternatives, and NPs, who are often working within retail-based health clinics, are ideally suited to help fill that gap and help patients adhere to their prescribed medications.