It’s no secret: The days when the physician was the star decision-maker of the health care team are over. Physician shortages driven by population and economic trends have called other providers, most notably advanced practice providers (APPs), into the spotlight.

For health care marketers, it is no longer sufficient to inform physicians about new therapies. Marketers also need to engage APPs if they want to maximize their impact on the provider workforce.

There are over 400,000 APPs in the United States, and that number will continue to grow. The number of nurse practitioners (NPs), for example, is anticipated to increase from 222,000 to 244,000 by 2025. Click on the images below to see how many APPs there are across the United States.

Nurse Practitioner Clinical Nurse Specialist Physician Assistant

The growing presence of APPs may be most obvious in the primary care setting; however, with specialists in short supply, an increasing number of APPs are stepping forward to manage patients in subspecialty areas.

These subspecialties include rheumatology and oncology, 2 fields that have seen unprecedented recent growth in novel therapies (think immunomodulatory drugs) for complex diseases.

Who Are the APPs?

APPs are health care professionals who deliver medical care, usually under the supervision of a physician. The level of supervision, or “scope of practice,” that is required by law varies from state to state. An APP’s ability to prescribe medications (including opioids) is also determined by state regulations.

APPs include NPs, clinical nurse specialists (CNSs), and physician assistants (PAs).

Advanced Practice Providers

As a group, these professionals prefer to be called “advanced practice providers.” They view “physician extenders” and “mid-level providers” as derogatory terms that minimize their contributions to patient care. In individual interactions, most APPs prefer to have their title (NP, CNS, or PA) acknowledged rather than to be lumped into a group with other APPs.

Each provider group has its own identity stemming from different educational backgrounds, practice settings, and professional organizations.


 Health care marketers who appreciate these differences can engage APPs with greater confidence.
APPs in Rheumatology: An Example

APPs play an important role in meeting the growing need for rheumatology care, which is driven primarily by a rise in the elderly population. It is predicted that by 2025, there will be a shortage of 2576 adult rheumatologists in the United States.

NPs, CNSs, and PAs provide hands-on patient care in rheumatology clinics. They take health histories, perform physicals, order and interpret diagnostic tests, develop treatment plans, administer joint injections, and prescribe medications, including disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS) and biologics.

APPs may follow their own “panel” of patients, which serves as an important source of patient education about medications and their side effects.

CNSs are more likely than NPs and PAs to be involved in health care administration, research, and public health. Their responsibilities may include designing treatment protocols and educating other health care professionals.

Where You Fit In: How You Can Reach APPs and Help

Regardless of their clinical setting, APPs have educational needs that are distinct from those of physicians. Educational materials should emphasize timely and practical information needed for making treatment decisions rather than drug mechanisms of action and research trials. Because APP training is grounded in primary care rather than subspecialty expertise, APPs also welcome disease-state education to round out their clinical knowledge base.

It’s not only about what APPs need that is different; it’s also about how you deliver it to them. The way you communicate with an APP is distinctly different from how you might speak with a physician. Want to know more? In 2 of our upcoming posts, we’ll discuss why communicating with this audience is crucial and unique, and how to effectively do so.

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Tags: advanced practice provider, Aegis, aegis creative, clinical nurse specialist, healthcare communications, life science, Medical Communications, nurse, nurse practitioner, oncology, pharma, pharma marketing, physician assistant, rheumatology

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