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How an Advanced Practice Provider Can Expand Your Urology Office

Physicians and the APPs that support them.

By hiring an APP, urology practices may be able to evolve to meet growing patient demand, reverse physician attrition, and increase patient engagement.

The role of the advanced practice provider (APP) is becoming more important to medical offices and clinics of all types. For urologists in particular, these highly trained professionals may be able to help perform common procedures at a lower cost than a physician, contribute to patient engagement, and fill widening recruiting and hiring gaps. 

You may have a great need for APPs already: The American Urological Association (AUA) reveals the urologist workforce is in decline. In 2018, the US had 3.89 urologists per capita, making it one of the most severe specialty shortages. Urology’s surgical workforce came in at second oldest with an average age of 52.5 years, meaning the profession may be hit by a wave of retirement soon. By hiring an APP, urology offices may be able to help reverse current and impending workforce shortages. 

In the same report, the AUA notes up to 72.5% of urologists already use an advanced practice provider (APP) in their practice. Here, you’ll learn how to jump on this hiring trend. You may want to attract and retain this growing part of the workforce to help your practice flourish into the future.

What Is an Advanced Practice Provider?

An advanced practice provider is a medical professional with training and education similar to a physician. You may hear them referred to as “physician extenders.” Their job titles may include advanced practice registered nurses (APRN), nurse practitioners (NP), physician assistants (PA), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) and others.

As their educational requirements become more strict, many enter the workforce with advanced college degrees and a high number of clinical hours behind their certifications. In some states, certain specialized APPs may even have full practice authority. 

Individuals may be choosing to become an advanced practice provider instead of a physician because of economic shifts happening in the medical field and in society as a whole. The potential for limiting student loan debt could be a driver of this trend. As an APP, knowledgeable professionals can provide meaningful care for urology and other patients sooner and with less financial burden.

How Can an Advanced Practice Provider Help?

For many urologists, the changing face of the profession requires adjustments to how you run your practice. The advanced practice provider may be able to help you evolve your business to meet these changes. 

The senior population is growing. Urology may include higher shares of older patients, making this population segment’s growth either a challenge or an opportunity for urologists. Additional hires may be able to help address the increasing demand for care.

Physician attrition is growing. Across many specialties, physicians are reaching retirement age or retiring early due to burnout. Expected physician shortages may limit your ability to take in new patients and grow your practice. Here, APPs may be able to help mitigate the impact of attrition.

Certain regions are underserved. In rural areas or parts of the country experiencing decline and growing disconnection, urology services may be limited. These opportunities may be ripe to capture if you’re empowered with seamless technology to help bridge market gaps and qualified staff to provide care.

Cost efficiencies are under greater scrutiny. From the urologist’s perspective, the lower salaries of APPs, compared with physicians, may be beneficial in light of the scope of care they can provide. If value-based care policies adjust your income based on your cost-effectiveness, growing your practice around cost efficiencies may result in stronger long-term financial outcomes.

APP Urology Patient Engagement

Growing demand for urology and a declining number of urologists may lead to patients scrambling for care and feeling rushed during appointments. Your office staff may struggle to keep up, and you may find yourself wishing you had more time to connect on an individual level. 

When engagement suffers, other aspects of your practice may be at risk, too: patient satisfaction, quality of care, patient loyalty and clinic finances. This is where an advanced practice provider or physician extender may be able to provide qualitative improvements to your business.

Limit this risk by asking yourself: What is an advanced practice provider able to do to enhance patient engagement? Some of the possibilities include increased time with patients during initial visits, the ability to see patients again sooner than busy physicians, and the time to dedicate to more detailed explanations of imaging, test results and other orders. 

A 1995 study by Kaiser Permanente noted that patient satisfaction with providers appeared to be based more on communication style regardless of provider type. This indicates that urologists may not have to worry about overall patient satisfaction if they see an APP staff member instead of a physician if the APP staff member has a communication style that patients find satisfactory.  

Retaining Advanced Practitioners

Since APPs can represent a way to grow your urology practice, ensuring their work experience is as positive as possible may help you attract and retain new staff. 

As a younger group of providers, APPs may be more natively digital and may expect their new workplaces to have advanced technology, including automation and interoperability. 

In this regard, onboarding may include a focus on how your practice’s culture is driven by data and technology to support patient care and make APP roles as frictionless as possible:

  • Provide practice-specific training to complement their urology training. Make sure they’re comfortable using your urology-specific EHR, prescription management tools and patient engagement tools. Streamlined technology may help them focus more on patient care instead of administrative duties.
  • Introduce them to front-office staff to help them feel like they’re immediately part of the team. Front office staff can play a crucial role in helping patients understand what an advanced practice provider does and how they help.
  • Highlight interoperability by showcasing that you have MIPS reporting, special registries, and electronic lab interfaces integrated into your EHR.
  • Share the results of automated patient surveys with them, so that they can feel more connected to patient needs and adjust their performance to serve your growing practice better.
  • Empower them to help expand your telehealth services in underserved markets or during times of high demand. Developing a rapport with patients over video conferencing may come naturally to younger providers.

As the practice of urology continues to evolve, the addition of advanced practice providers may position you for the kind of growth that lasts. Focus on the cost-effective hiring of highly trained APP staff, supported by cutting-edge technology, so that your urology practice may be able to overcome industry obstacles and gain greater market share.

Interested in more ways your practice could benefit from modern technology?

This blog is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or medical advice. Please consult with your legal counsel and other qualified advisors to ensure compliance with applicable laws, regulations and standards.