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Toward a More Complete Picture of Outpatient, Office-Based Health Care in the US
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  • Description:
    The healthcare system in the U.S., particularly outpatient, office-based care, has been shifting toward service delivery by advanced practice providers, particularly nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs). The National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS), conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the leading source of nationally representative data on care delivered by office-based physicians. This paper first describes NAMCS, then discusses key NAMCS expansion efforts, and finally presents major findings from two exploratory studies that assess the feasibility of collecting data from NPs and PAs as sampled providers in NAMCS. The first NAMCS expansion effort began in 2006 when the NAMCS sample was expanded to include community health centers and started collecting and disseminating data on physicians, NPs, PAs, and nurse midwives in these settings. Then, in 2013, NCHS included workforce questions in NAMCS on the composition and clinical tasks of all healthcare staff in physician offices. Finally, in 2013-2014, NCHS conducted two exploratory studies and found that collecting data from NPs and PAs as sampled providers in NAMCS is feasible. However, modifications to the current NAMCS procedures may be necessary, for example, changing recruitment strategies, visit sampling procedures, and physician-centric survey items. Collectively, these NCHS initiatives are important for healthcare research, practice, and policy communities in their efforts toward providing a more complete picture of the changing outpatient, office-based workforce, team-based care approach, and service utilization in the U.S.

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