Due to increased need for all aspects of health care to cut costs, emergency rooms are relying more and more on the services of what are called physician’s assistants, (PAs.) PAs can diagnose and treat patients, and their lower cost can help keep the price of running an emergency room down while helping to speed up the turnaround time for patients.

Until recently most PAs worked in family practice medicine. However, between 1996 and 2008 the percentage of PAs working in this area decreased substantially from almost 40% to only 26%. The decrease is attributed to the move of PAs from family practice to emergency room practice as their presence in the emergency room became more accepted while patient use of emergency rooms went up during the same period by 32%.

Patients should always be aware who is treating them, and whatever diagnosis that is made should be verified with a staff physician.

Josyann Abisaab, MD is an emergency room physician practicing in the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City.