The Scope of Practice Battle: Does it Do More than to Divide and Conquer Us?

Hanging Boxing Gloves

***  Primary Care Physicians vs. Nurse Practitioners  ***

It’s the marquis turf battle that’s sexy and exciting for journalists, politicians, and healthcare groups.  State-by-state changes have been giving nurse practitioners (NPs) more and more (sometimes less) ability to practice more medicine with less supervision.

In many states and federally, expansion of NP scope of practice has, by the viewpoint of many physicians and physician groups, become the Pandora’s Box that will reshape primary care for the worse, challenge the future of the profession of primary care physicians, increase healthcare costs, and cause great harm to patients and communities.  Full legal independent scope to practice medicine is the line in the sand that most states yet have not crossed, requiring NPs to have a “collaborative agreement” with a physician who “supervises” their care of patients.

I won’t go into the detailed arguments made by physician groups about education and training differences between primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants (“physician extenders”, or “mid-levels” providers).

What I question, however, is if this battle really matters and is the best use of resources.

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Five reasons why Primary Care Physicians might get replaced by computers

computer-doctor

Computers are getting smarter, better, and more personable, there’s no doubt about it.  Will there ever come a time, however, when computers get so good at human interaction that even the highest-skilled in the work force — primary care physicians (PCPs) — go the way of the travel agent?

I began wondering this a few months ago after listening to Dr. Martin Kohn, a physician who works at IBM Research and works on integrating the Watson supercomputer (of Jeopardy! fame) in healthcare.  He spoke about computer technology changes, their history, and their integration with healthcare.

Could computers be the biggest disruptors of healthcare delivery (and my career as primary care physician)?  Here are five reason why, one day, primary care physicians could possibly be replaced by computer…

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