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Med Ed for NPs and PAs: An Rx for Greater Impact

Recently, USA Today published an article about the changing landscape of America’s healthcare providers. Increasingly, patients’ healthcare needs are being met by a nurse practitioner (NP) or a physician assistant (PA), in addition to or in conjunction with a physician (MD or DO). As medical education marketers, it got us thinking—where are these advanced practice providers (APPs) turning to for their ongoing medical education? For a group that accounts for over 500,000 NPs and PAs alone,1, 2 we see the value and need for creating medical education that’s specifically designed for the APP population. 

Within the pharmaceutical space, medical education content is generally created around specific healthcare provider (HCP) personas and segments, which are used to understand the beliefs and behaviors that need to change. While pharma-identified HCP segments could include the APP population, they often do not. Therefore, much of the medical education created today doesn’t keep the educational needs of APPs in mind.  

Is the lack of APP-focused medical education impactful?  

Right now, primary care physicians (PCPs) adopt new medications sooner than NPs and PAs do—7.3 months versus 8.2 and 8.5 months, respectively.3 In other words, patients who see NPs and PAs could potentially wait up to six weeks longer before receiving a new medication. That timing could certainly impact a patient’s quality of life and their treatment journey. How can we start to close this gap? We would recommend developing HCP personas and segments that include the growing APP population to safeguard and ensure APP awareness of new medications and new indications. 

In addition, pharma marketers face a growing need to provide more medical education among community HCPs, including those in rural areas with underserved populations. In fact, there is a larger number of NPs in rural areas versus the number of PCPs in metropolitan areas.4 Besides increasing medical education outreach, which may help improve health equity, it’s just as important that APPs receive medical education that’s better aligned to the learning models used during their formal training and to their clinical experience. 

APPs: A key link to care 

APP-focused medical education could be especially impactful considering that more patients are starting to prefer to have an APP involved in their regular care in addition to a physician. As it relates to the specific therapeutic area of oncology, APPs are predominately involved in direct patient care, such as patient counseling, prescribing, treatment management, and follow-up visits.5 

Differences among therapeutic areas and state regulations may impact how much an APP is involved in patient care. However, this growing field of APPs is starting to fill the gap of today’s physician shortage. In fact, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the demand for primary and specialty care physicians will exceed supply by 37,800 to 124,000 physicians by the year 2034.6 With this change in the healthcare landscape, now might be the time to more fully consider an APP’s impact on prescribing and assess their need for specific medical education as a way to continue providing the best possible treatment and care to patients.   

At Avant Healthcare, we examine many factors of a pharma brand’s business to tailor a robust peer marketing strategy that targets the right customer at the right time with the right education. If you’re trying to reach NPs and PAs—or extend your reach within the marketplace—it may be time to take a closer look at the learning styles, beliefs, and behaviors of APPs. At Avant, we can help you create medical education designed to move and motivate this often-underestimated group of prescribers.   

  1. NP Fact Sheet. American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Accessed September 6, 2023. https://www.aanp.org/about/all-about-nps/np-fact-sheet  
  2. 2022 Statistical Profile of Board Certified PAs by Specialty Annual Report. NCCPA 2023. Accessed September 12, 2023. https://www.nccpa.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Q2-Specialty-8_4_23.pdf  
  3. Marcum ZA, Bellon JE, Li J, et al. New chronic disease medication prescribing by nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and primary care physicians: a cohort study. BMC Health Serv Res. 2016;16: 312. doi:10.1186/s12913-016-1569-1 
  4. Xue Y, Smith JA, Spetz J. Primary care nurse practitioners and physicians in low-income and rural areas, 2010-2016. JAMA. 2019;321(1):102–105. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.17944 
  5. Bruinooge SS, Pickard TA, Vogel W, et al. Understanding the role of advanced practice providers in oncology in the United States. J Oncol Pract. 2018;14(9):e518-e532. doi: 10.1200/JOP.18.00181. Epub 2018 Aug 22. Erratum in: J Oncol Pract. 2019;15(1):60. PMID: 30133346. 
  6. The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections From 2019 to 2034. Association of American Medical Colleges, Prepared for the AAMC by HIS Markit Ltd., June 2021.  Accessed September 6, 2023. https://www.aamc.org/media/54681/download   

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