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Will Telehealth Create More Remote Physician Assistant Jobs in the Future?

May 10, 2024

A rising population is driving demand for health care services, with physician assistants (PAs) leading growth in the sector. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), PA employment should increase by 27% over the next decade, a rate almost ten times that for the job market as a whole. 

Becoming a PA offers an attractive career choice. U.S. News & World Report ranks PAs second on its list of the best health care jobs and fifth among the top 100 best jobs overall. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) 2022 Statistical Profile of Board Certified PAs found that 86.7% of PAs are satisfied with their career choice. Compare that to physicians’ 68% job satisfaction rate.

That’s an apt comparison, given that PAs perform many of the same tasks as medical doctors (MDs). The two roles differ in one significant metric: it takes much less time to become a PA than an MD.  If you meet admissions requirements, you can earn your physician assistant degree from the University of Pittsburgh Physician Assistant Studies Hybrid Program in as few as two years. 

PAs also enjoy a remarkable degree of clinical flexibility; a 2021 American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC) report suggests that PAs can change specialties throughout their careers, with at least half changing their specializations at least once. 

PA career flexibility and opportunities are expanding with the rise of telemedicine. This article summarizes the impact of telehealth on PAs. 

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Remote PAs and Telehealth: An Overview 

Telehealth, defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as “access to a health care provider without an in-person office visit,” grew considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially seen as a crisis response, telemedicine remains popular in the post-pandemic world

Remote consultations with physicians or PAs are the highest-profile form of telemedicine. However, as telemedicine evolves, so does the role of PAs, who are leveraging new technologies to interact with patients and collaborate with colleagues; telemedicine is harnessing these advancements to expand the breadth of its services. This includes digital messaging to and from health care providers. PAs can also monitor patients and manage chronic diseases remotely using smart devices.

Many PAs already embrace telemedicine. According to the NCCPA 2022 Statistic Profile of Board Certified PAs report, over 60% of practices or institutions provide telemedicine services. Among that percentage: 

  • 88.8% use telemedicine to follow up with patients
  • 82.8% use it to diagnose or treat patients
  • 66.6% use it to manage chronic disease patients
  • 31.1% use it to collaborate with other health care providers

Videoconferencing is the most common modality when providing telemedicine services; 91.8% of PAs who participate in telemedicine utilize it.

Physician Assistant Specialties and Telehealth Opportunities

The PA field is broad, with qualified practitioners pursuing varied specialties. Some specialties may be better suited for PAs seeking remote positions. For example, family medicine or psychiatry PAs can offer some services remotely. In contrast, PAs specializing in emergency medicine or critical care (working in hospital intensive care units) are unlikely to work from home.

Remote vs. Work-from-Home vs. Hybrid PA Positions 

PAs must understand industry terminology (remote, work from home, hybrid) and nuances of remote medicine. Some PA jobs involve working from home, while others require traveling to patients’ homes or satellite facilities. For the latter, remote means they won’t work at a hospital or physicians office but will still see patients in person.  Other jobs offer a hybrid working environment where PAs can work from home for a few days, spending the remainder of the week at their employer’s location (e.g., a clinic, hospital, or physician’s office). 

Where to Find Remote Physician Assistant Jobs

While traditional health care settings—hospitals, clinics and private practices—might allow PAs to work remotely, a job at a telehealth provider could be the best fit for PAs specifically pursuing remote roles. 

According to data from IBISWorld, the number of businesses in the United States telemedicine services industry grew 27.4% annually between 2018 and 2023. Currently, there are around 1,300 telemedicine businesses in the country; Forbes highlights Teladoc, HealthTap and Sesame Care in its “Best Telemedicine Companies Of 2024” list. According to Fortune Business Insights, the United States’ telemedicine market was worth $48.56 billion in 2022. It’s projected to grow by 18% between 2023 and 2030.

How Much Can I Make as a Remote Physician Assistant?

According to the BLS, the average PA earns around $126,000 annually. Various factors can impact a PA’s income, including specialty, employer, geographical location and whether they work on-site or remotely. For instance, the Medscape 2023 Physician Assistant Salary Report finds that PAs working in operating rooms and surgical settings can earn an average annual salary of $145,000. Meanwhile, PAs working in medical offices or clinics can earn an average yearly income of $129,000. 

Remote PA salaries also vary; some PAs are paid by visit or hour rather than on a salary basis. The Remote Nurse reports an average hourly rate between $50 and $70. The Medscape report also suggests that hourly PAs earn more than salaried PAs. However, hourly or by-visit PAs may earn less during quiet months or due to patient cancellations. 

How to Become a Remote Physician Assistant: Earn Your PAS Online

Aspiring remote PAs might find that hybrid PA programs best suit their lifestyles and learning needs. The University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) offers a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies Hybrid Program. The curriculum combines interactive virtual lectures with on-campus immersions and in-person clinical rotations, preparing students for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) and becoming licensed PAs. 

PAS-Hybrid Program students complete online courses to develop their pharmacology, patient care, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, health policy and surgical competencies. The program also aims to empower students to advance patient care by embracing new technologies and practices, including telemedicine. Online classes allow first-year students to learn from anywhere. Meanwhile, second-year students gain practical experience by participating in eight clinical rotations in over 850 potential health care placements nationwide.

Next Steps: Apply to the Hybrid PA Program at Pitt 

New opportunities await PAs due to telehealth’s increased adoption, making now an excellent time for new PAs to enter the field. Prospective students can start their applications today or connect with an enrollment advisor to learn more about the University of Pittsburgh’s Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program and how to become a remote PA. 

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