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How AI Will Shape the Future of Physician Assistant Jobs

February 12, 2024

“Artificial intelligence (AI) is the transformative technology of our era and the next step in the evolution of cognition,” Deloitte proclaimed in its 2022 report “AI Trends Outlook: From the age of adoption to the age of value.” It is easy to see how the consulting giant reached its conclusion: AI is everywhere, permeating manufacturing, marketing, finance, customer service, the arts, education, health care and virtually every other noteworthy enterprise.

AI’s rapid, pervasive entry into health care has yielded substantial benefits, improving health care practice, patient experience and cost reduction. That helps explain why the AI-associated global health care market is projected to increase with a compound annual growth rate of almost 50 percent between 2023 and 2028, reaching $102.7 billion in five years. 

There appears to be no turning back: AI will take an expanding role in delivering effective health care for the foreseeable future. Nine in ten hospitals already have AI strategies in place. In a survey of U.S. health care leaders, 41 percent reported fully functional AI implementation as of 2021. Health care practitioners, including doctors, nurses and physician assistants (PAs), must understand AI’s role and potential applications to care for patients and support positive health outcomes in this changing environment. 

This article examines the impact of AI on PA jobs, and it discusses how a future-focused PA program, like the University of Pittsburgh’s Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies – Hybrid Program (PAS-Hybrid), can help prepare PAs to thrive in a technologically advanced work environment. 

Evaluating Today’s Health Care Landscape 

PAs work in various health care settings, from hospitals to community health centers to nursing homes. They share many responsibilities with medical doctors, conducting physical exams, diagnosing and treating illnesses and prescribing medication. Accordingly, any trends driving health care delivery impact their profession. 

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. will face a shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034, including primary and specialty care deficits. Qualified PAs can help mitigate the shortfall. They will do so under challenging conditions: many health care practitioners have suffered burnout since the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in high turnover rates. According to the NCCPA’s 2022 Statistical Profile of Board-Certified PAs, 32 percent of PAs are experiencing one or more symptoms of burnout. 

Health care system challenges also affect patients struggling to access the care they need and dealing with rising costs. These obstacles create opportunities to implement new tools and innovative technology to increase efficiency, improve patient care and increase job satisfaction among health care providers. Artificial intelligence can contribute to achieving these goals.

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Deep Dive: Where AI and Health Care Intersect

AI is revolutionizing health care. It is driving improvements in medical diagnostics: mammograms read by AI software find 20 percent more cancers than the routine double reading by two radiologists, and do so without increasing false positives. 

AI is also being used to mitigate exposure to diseases, optimize disease treatment using machine learning and human genomics, improve efficiency in electronic medical record management and address the effects of health inequities. These applications and others can transform patient care by helping streamline administrative tasks, augment diagnostic processes and enhance treatment plans and patient management. 

The Impact of AI on the Role of the Physician Assistant 

Health care organizations are finding ways to use AI to improve efficiency. From back-office tasks to patient care, AI is streamlining work, adding quality assurance checks and generating new diagnostic tools. Regardless of their clinical specialty or primary work site, PAs will need to master these new processes.

AI can reduce the time PAs spend on administrative tasks, allowing them more time to treat patients. Generative AI can help PAs with note-taking and content summarization to keep medical records thorough and accurate. AI can also improve coding accuracy and manage information sharing among departments and billing. PAs will also benefit from advances in AI-powered medical diagnostics. 

The Future Overlap of Physician Assistants and AI 

Artificial intelligence is effecting revolutionary change across industries; health care is certainly no exception. Future-focused PAs must prepare to incorporate AI in their daily work to increase efficiency and enhance patient care. Top PA training programs like the University of Pittsburgh’s Physician Assistant Studies-Hybrid Program can equip PAs with the clinical and technical foundation to adapt to this new era.

The Pitt PAS-Hybrid program prepares aspiring PAs to participate in the future health care landscape. PAS-Hybrid students complete online courses to develop competencies in pharmacology, patient care, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, health policy and surgery. The program also prepares students to advance patient care by embracing new technology, such as point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) and telemedicine. This focus on technology sets the Pitt PAS-Hybrid curriculum apart from other PA programs.

Pitt’s PAS-Hybrid program pairs interactive virtual lectures with on-campus immersions and in-person clinical rotations at a variety of health care settings nationwide, preparing PAs to work in various facilities and specialties. Upon graduation, you will qualify to sit for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) to become certified to practice. 

If you’re interested in becoming a PA, contact an enrollment advisor to learn more about possible job opportunities with a PAS-Hybrid, the technical components of the Pitt PAS-Hybrid curriculum and how to complete your application.

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