Letter to the editor: Flawed study a disservice to PAs
The story “Study: Physician assistants less accurate in diagnosing early skin cancer” highlights a fundamentally flawed study, led by Dr. Laura Ferris and published in JAMA Dermatology, that displays physician assistants (PAs) in a bad light.
The study looks at far too few clinicians to draw any serious conclusions and cherry-picks clinical decisions in ways clearly designed to poorly depict PAs. Specific limitations in the study include a small sample size of only 15 PAs and 15 dermatologists; that PAs had an average of 6.6 years less clinical experience than the dermatologists (which was not statistically controlled for in the analysis); that PAs may have performed more biopsies at the request of their supervising dermatologist (which is not captured on records) or due to requests by patients for cosmetic purposes; and that patients with a history of melanoma may have simply requested to visit the dermatologist rather than the PA.
The fact is, based upon the wealth of research, that PAs provide cost-effective and high-quality care throughout Pennsylvania and across the nation. This study and the flawed conclusions drawn from it provide a disservice to the practice of dermatology and dermatology patients.
The writer is president of Pennsylvania Dermatology Physician Assistants ( padermpa.org ).