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For Immediate Release
July 30, 2014

Affordable Care Act, Aging Population Putting Pressure on Allied Health Programs

 

PA Faculty

The Affordable Care Act and an aging baby boomer population are driving the demand for physician assistants and other health care professionals nationwide.

Employment of physician assistants is expected to increase 30 to 50 percent between 2010 and 2020, much greater than the percentage of all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The need is especially acute in Riverside and San Bernardino counties where a chronic shortage of health care professionals has plagued the region for some time.

"The PA profession is a very lucrative profession right now," said Dr. Vasco Deon Kidd, assistant professor and academic coordinator of the Moreno Valley College Physician Assistant Program.

"There is a huge market for PAs and other health care providers especially those who are bilingual because of the significant demographic shift we're seeing in the Inland Empire."

Moreno Valley College offers a two-year, competency based PA program to train competent individuals to perform a wide variety of health care services under the supervision of a physician. Physician assistants perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, assist in surgery, prescribe medications, and provide patient education and counseling.

The national Affordable Care Act provides health care access to millions of previously uninsured individuals and their families. The result is more patients are entering the health care system than the industry has the workforce to deal with. Plus an aging physician workforce is also contributing to the shortage of health care providers. The number of people 65 and older is expected to double in the next 30 years from an estimated 40 million to 80 million.

Both public and private sectors are recruiting physician assistants to help increase access and delivery to care, Kidd said. PAs are involved in the evaluation and treatment of a variety of chronic conditions that affect the elderly. They often work in places such as clinics, hospitals, federally qualified health care centers, rehabilitative centers, hospice, and long-term care facilities where the elderly receive the bulk of their care.

The elderly often suffer from chronic conditions such as depression, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, COPD, chronic kidney disease, and heart failure. But, as a group, they are more active and living longer than previous generations. That means greater demand for orthopedic services such as hip and knee replacements and cardiovascular services such as stents and bypass surgery to treat heart conditions. Wellness programs and mental health services are also on the rise nationally.

Kidd, who holds a doctorate in health science with an emphasis in global health, is an author and speaker on the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the U.S. health care system. His primary research focuses on patient-centered medical homes, health administration, and health policy.

He recently completed a book chapter on the Affordable Care Act and was second author on a couple of studies on the role of PAs in patient-centered medical homes, which is an interdisciplinary team approach to coordinating and delivering comprehensive care to improve the overall health and wellbeing of patients.

Unlike the assembly-line approach to health care where physicians don't have time to interact with patients, medical practitioners in patient-centered medical homes look to transform health care delivery.

"It's a new approach to health care that involves a lot of stakeholders," Kidd said. "A team of providers works together to improve the quality and accessibility to care and ensure a positive outcome for the patient."

Kidd called patient-centered medical homes the "wave of the future" driven by the Affordable Care Act, in which PAs and other health professionals will play a vital role in the improvement and coordination of medical care.

Kidd has been a physician assistant since 2001. He graduated from Western University of Health Science and completed an orthopedic fellowship at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in 2003. He was the lead PA for orthopedic physician assistants at Kaiser Permanente from 2003 to 2010 before accepting an academic position at the University of Texas in 2010.

He joined the faculty at Moreno Valley College in 2013 as a visiting associate faculty in the physician assistant program before accepting his current full-time position.

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