Nurse Practitioners: Improving Quality of Care and Saving Costs

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Nurse practitioners (NPs) are rapidly becoming the health providers of choice for an increasing number of Americans each year. NPs are advanced practice registered nurses, so they are qualified to treat a wide variety of illnesses, diseases and conditions. They also can order required diagnostic tests and perform detailed physical examinations. Simply put, NPs are able to seamlessly blend their clinical expertise in treating and diagnosing health conditions while still emphasizing health management and acute and chronic disease prevention.

To learn more, check out the infographic below created by Bradley University’s Nurse Practitioner Online Programs.

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With this status in mind, it is easy to see why NPs have the ability to improve the quality of health care and reduce the skyrocketing costs associated with it.

In fact, research shows that an increase in NP staffing levels is associated with sweeping reductions in adverse health aliments, as well as the length of most patients’ stay in a hospital environment. More NPs also mean a drop in patients’ overall expenditure, which is a trend that could translate into a whopping $166 billion in health cost savings nationwide. Most importantly, adding more NPs to existing health care staff can increase overall efficiency. Think about it: When physicians must attend to every patient, the process becomes exceptionally inefficient, with doctors only able to spend a very limited amount of time with each ailing patient. They have less time for examination, diagnosis and associated questions, which also leads to a system in which doctors are overworked, potentially jeopardizing patient safety.

While research also shows that the care provided by NPs is the same high quality as that provided by physicians, the first-year savings when introducing an NP model in a health system’s neuroscience department can equal $2.4 million. Additionally, the amount paid out by Medicare is slightly less, as well: $22,898 for physicians and $20,380 for NPs, which translates to a cost savings of $2,518.

Furthermore, a recent one-year study comparing a family physician-managed health care practice with an NP-managed practice (within a managed care organization) revealed that when the two practices were compared, the NP-helmed practice had 38 percent of inpatient days, 43 percent of the total emergency room visits and 50 percent of the total annualized member monthly cost.

The numbers are clear; 23 percent of NPs in managed care serve at a whopping 23 percent below the average cost associated with other primary care providers.

NPs play an important role in patient care and the reduction of health care costs. Need another example? Throughout the past two decades, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, commonly referred to as the VA, has reconceived and expanded the roles of NPs on its staff as part of a major overhaul of its entire health care system.

What can be done to make sure this trend continues? Empowering NPs to diagnose and prescribe medications without a doctor’s oversight is an important step in helping to ensure that there is a large enough primary care workforce at any time to serve the growing patient population.

To fully understand the added efficiency that NPs can provide, it is imperative to fully understand their important role in the overall health care system. As previously stated, NPs are able to serve as patients’ primary health care providers. In fact, many patients actually prefer to be treated by an NP, as they feel this service assures them a more holistic health care approach. NPs also are able to treat patients of virtually all age brackets, depending upon their specific medical specialty.

With experience and advanced education, NPs may specialize in a variety of areas, including oncology, pain management, cardiology, surgical services, obstetrics, dermatology, orthopedics and women’s health.

The health philosophy at the core of the NP role is tailored care for each patient that heavily focuses on a patient’s medical history and personal issues, in addition to the effects of illness on his or her life and family. NPs also focus on a holistic approach to patient care, emphasizing lifestyle changes, health promotion, patient counseling and education, and overall disease prevention. The main classifications of NPs include adult (ANP), acute care (ACNP), pediatric (PNP), neonatal (NNP), family (FNP), gerontological (GNP) and psychiatric-mental health (PMHNP). Additionally, adult-gerontology primary (AGPCNP) is a specialization that is evolving rapidly and growing in popularity.

In addition to providing a wide variety of health care services, NPs often teach, conduct health-related research and are active in patient advocacy and the development process of health care policy at local, state and national levels.

Unsurprisingly, the employment of NPs is expected to increase throughout the next decade. Sure, the industry is counting on advances in medical technology, which will lead to better quality health care and a larger variety of solutions to address problems, but in reality, NPs continue to provide quality care at a lower cost. It also is worth mentioning that life expectancy is getting longer, and more patients will lead more active lifestyles in their later years, which also will drastically increase the demand on existing health care systems.


Recommended Reading

Where Can You Work as a Family Nurse Practitioner?

Career Spotlight: Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

How Does Health Informatics Impact Nurse Practitioners?

Bradley University Online MSN-FNP Program