Background: Emergency department (ED) overcrowding is associated with worse patient outcomes.
Objectives: To determine whether physician assistants (PAs), fairly recently integrated into the Israeli healthcare system, improve patient outcomes and ED timings.
Methods: We compared patients seen by physicians with patients seen by PAs and then by physicians between January and December 2018 using propensity matching. Patients were matched for age, gender, triage level, and decision to hospitalize. Primary endpoints included patient mortality, re-admittance. and leaving on own accord rates. Secondary endpoints were ED timing landmarks.
Results: Patients first seen by PAs were less likely to leave on their own accord (MD1 1.5%, PA 1.0%, P = 0.015), had lower rates of readmission within 48 hours (MD1 2.1%, PA 1.5%, P= 0.028), and were quicker to be seen, to have medications prescribed, and to undergo imaging without differences in timings until decisions were made or total length of stay. Patients seen by a physician with the assistance of a PA were attended to quicker (MD2 47.79 minutes, range 27.70–78.82 vs. MD + PA 30.59 minutes, range 15.77–54.85; P < 0.001) without statistically significant differences in primary outcomes. Mortality rates were similar for all comparisons.
Conclusions: Patients first seen by PAs had lower rates of re-admittance or leaving on their own accord and enjoyed shorter waiting times. Pending proper integration into healthcare teams, PAs can further improve outcomes in EDs and patient satisfaction.