'Assistant' or 'associate'? ACR questions change in PA title

By Kate Madden Yee, AuntMinnie.com staff writer

June 7, 2021 -- The American College of Radiology (ACR) has released a statement opposing the American Academy of Physician Assistants' (AAPA) decision to change the professional title of organization members to "physician associate."

The academy's House of Delegates passed a resolution affirming the title change on May 24 with a vote of 198 to 68. The next step is to discuss how to implement the change, the AAPA said; physician assistants should not call themselves "physician associates" until the legislative and regulatory changes to incorporate the new title are made, which could take a number of years.

Why the change? The AAPA believes that physician assistants need a new title that "accurately reflects AAPA professional practice policies" and that PAs need to be "positioned to successfully compete in the ever-changing healthcare marketplace," the organization said in a FAQ page about the decision.

But the new title will cause confusion, according to the ACR. (The college has registered concerns about the role of PAs before: In 2020, it sent a letter to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regarding changes to physician supervision requirements for physician assistants.)

"The physician assistant title accurately reflects the training of these professionals and their role in any physician-led team," the college said in a statement released June 7. "Any change would lead to confusion among patients as they make important healthcare choices."

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