PAs and NPs: Insights spotlight on advanced practice providers

Sales & Marketing

Physician associates (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) have received widespread attention in the past few years. Rightfully so, with physician shortages, burnout among health care professionals, and pandemic-related issues driving the need for an increased role for NPs and PAs in healthcare. Professionals in this dedicated, resilient, and talented group dedicate their lives to the advancement of patient care across health systems. This ever-expanding field of medical professionals was accelerated in 2022 by five key insights and developments.

1. NPs and PAs on the rise
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, NPs and PAs are among the fastest growing segments of the healthcare profession, with career growth happening at an unprecedented rate. NP is expected to see an increase by nearly 50% and PA career growth is projected to grow by 31% over the next nine years – adding more than 151,000 people to the workforce.

With 355,000 licensed NPs and 158,470 PAs, there are now 513,470 licensed advanced practice providers in the United States. That equals more than half of the number of physicians in patient care, which totals 995,958. This is in part due to the declining prevalence of medical doctors. The projected physician shortage may be as high as 125,000 in primary care and many specialties. It’s likely that NPs and PAs will increasingly fill these gaps.

2. States increase scope of care for NPs and PAs
Fuelling this career growth is the fact that, across the US, states are increasingly expanding the practice autonomy and scope of practice for PAs and NPs.

PAs have adaptable supervision requirements in about 34 states, which varies by state and employer type. Iowa and Minnesota increased autonomy in May 2022 and Oregon has pending legislation that, if approved, would grant increased autonomy for PAs. NPs can practice independently in 26 states.

NPs in California began operating with full authority in January 2023 and, in New York, NPs received full practice authority in April 2022.

3. Patients rely on NPs and PAs as a key prescriber
In 2022, NPs and PAs wrote 1.17 billion unique prescriptions, which equates to about 2,281 prescriptions per prescriber between October 2021 and September 2022, according to POCN’s TotalOfficeTM Data and TrueRxTM proprietary Rx attribution algorithms. That means NPs and PAs were responsible for nearly one-third of all retail prescriptions, underscoring how important it is for life sciences companies to connect with this key group. For context, there are approximately 919,326 prescribing physicians in patient care that wrote about 2.762 billion prescriptions or 3,116 prescriptions per prescriber during that same time period.

4. Legislation moves forward to improve care and access to nurses
The Improving Care and Access to Nurses (ICAN) legislation introduced in the House in September 2022 and the Senate in December 2022 would improve care quality and reduce costs for Medicare and Medicaid patients by eliminating barriers to care and expand authority for NPs and PAs. If passed, it would expand provider scope in a variety of ways, such as allowing NPs and PAs to order and supervise cardiac rehabilitation and pulmonary rehabilitation, certify that diabetic patients need therapeutic shoes, or refer patients to nutritional therapy. NPs care for an estimated 40% of Medicaid patients.

5. Multistate licensure inches closer to reality
As a result of the APRN Compact, an APRN will be able to hold a single multistate license that allows them to practice in other states that have entered into the compact programme. This would benefit patients, as well as APRNs, plus it will improve a state’s ability to respond to emergency public health emergencies and pandemics.

It was enacted by North Dakota and Delaware in 2021 and by Utah in 2022. New York has pending legislation that, if passed, means that only three additional states would need to enter into the APRN Compact for it to be implemented.

Next steps for pharma marketers: How to reach NPs and PAs
Marketers can use data to identify and engage NPs and PAs based on their patient panels (Dx and Rx) and reach them through geographic peer communities, with consideration for their personal preferences, to deliver branded content and disease-related information in multi/omni-channel formats.

Based on POCN survey results, these providers say they prefer learning about treatment guidelines, pharmaceutical offerings, and medical news through live events (conferences, symposiums, dinner meetings), through clinical journals, from their peers, or via email.

NPs and PAs who work in specialty and primary care say they prefer to be engaged directly with educational materials, marketing, and research information that is tailored to them and their chosen specialty.

If you’re a marketer who is looking to engage NPs and PAs, here are three steps to help you.

1. Understand your audience.
When developing your content, remember that NPs and APs are clinical in nature. They connect with their patients in a holistic way. They are interested in how a product will impact a patient’s quality of life and whether their patient can afford the medication or product. Be sure to inform them about the safety and efficacy of your product because that is important to them. Additionally, it’s important to tailor insights, programmes, and ad boards specifically for NPs and PAs in order to reach them, rather than broad messaging blasts that don’t consider them specifically.

2. Use the right data.
NPs and PAs are often overlooked in targeting plans because of insufficient data or analysis that reveals their influence and prescriber power. POCN’s TrueRxTM data shows NPs and PAs account for an average of 24% of new to therapeutic category prescriptions (NBRXs). Yet, in some therapeutic categories NPs and PAs account for as much as 31% of NBRXs (the range is 18%-31%). When marketers use the right data, they can understand who providers are prescribing a particular product for, where they are located, and how many prescriptions they are responsible for writing.

3. Tailor direct and intentional content.
NPs and PAs have often been targeted in broad communications that don’t consider them directly, so they know when you’re actually tailoring your communication to them. That’s why it’s important for marketers to create an engagement approach that offers a variety of communications, like in-person events, peer-to-peer, email, display, and digital engagement. Include NP and PA thought leaders in your messaging approach, just as you would when reaching a physician.

NPs and PAs are incredibly important in our healthcare system and they’re influential and effective in their work. The traditional data is understated and hidden from the view of most. This is why it’s critical that marketers use the data and insights available to them to understand how to engage these talented providers. By following the steps outlined here, marketers can create a strategy to engage these providers, using custom campaigns and educational opportunities to effectively reach the NPs and PAs who are practicing in a specific specialty area.

About the author

Richard ZwickelRichard Zwickel is the founder, CEO, and chairman of POCN. Richard founded POCN with the goal of building a free and secure peer-driven network for NPs and PAs.

2 February, 2023