May 27, 2016

Pennsylvania Senate to Hear Bill to Ease Scope Restrictions; Research Backs It Up

Pennsylvanians are a step closer to being able to receive primary care with fewer hurdles, thanks to a bill that went to the state Senate earlier this month that would end the requirement that nurse practitioners maintain written contracts with physicians to practice and prescribe medication.

And research published at the same time underscores the wisdom of the move. Among other findings: Nurse practitioners (NPs) are more likely—13 percent more likely—to work in primary care in those states whose laws allow them to work to the full extent of their training and education.

The lead author of the new study, Hilary Barnes, PhD, CRNP, summarized the potential gains in a piece she wrote for University of Pennsylvania’s Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics Health Policy$ense blog: “For Pennsylvania, removing the requirement for collaborative agreements could increase the number of NPs by 13 percent and lower health care costs by $6.4 billion over the next ten years.”

The study, “Effects of Regulation and Payment Policies on Nurse Practitioners’ Clinical Practices,” was funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Its authors include Linda Aiken, PhD, RN, FAAN, and Matthew McHugh, PhD, JD, RN, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing who are analyzing what has changed about health care and nursing in the five years since the Institute of Medicine released its report on the future of nursing. The researchers sought to learn the effect of state policies on nurse practitioners employment; findings were based on a national sample of 252,657 outpatient care practices.

Pennsylvania’s Senate is the next stop for the bill, which was passed May 18 by the state Senate’s Professional Licensure Committee.