Why Primary Care Matters
The evidence shows that access to primary care helps people live longer, healthier lives. Studies suggest that as many as 127,617 deaths per year(www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) in the United States could be averted through an increase in the number of primary care physicians available. In areas of the country where there are more primary care providers per person, death rates for cancer, heart disease, and stroke are lower and people are less likely to require hospitalization.
What is primary care?
The Institute of Medicine(www.nap.edu) defines primary care as:
“The provision of integrated, accessible health care services by clinicians who are accountable for addressing a large majority of personal health care needs, developing a sustained partnership with patients, and practicing in the context of family and community.”
According to the 20th report of the Council on Graduate Medical Education on Advancing Primary Care(www.hrsa.gov), research shows that health care outcomes and costs in the United States are strongly linked to the availability of primary care physicians. Patients with access to a regular primary care physician have lower overall health care costs than those without one, and health outcomes improve.
Better Health Care
Primary care is the backbone of the health care system. Utilizing primary care physicians puts an emphasis on the physician-patient relationship by shifting the focus from physician-centered care to patient-centered care.
An increase of one primary care doctor per 10,000 people has been shown to result in:
- 5% decrease in outpatient visits
- 5.5% decrease in inpatient admissions
- 10.9% decrease in ER visits
- 7.2% decrease in surgeries
Better Access to Health Care
Urban and rural communities that have an adequqate supply of primary care providers experience lower infant mortality, higher birth weights, and immunization rates at or above national standards, despite social disparities.
Evidence shows that primary care, in contrast to specialty care, is associated with a more equitable distribution of health in populations--a finding that hold in both national and international studies.
Lowering the Cost of Health Care
- A primary care-based system may cost less because patients experience fewer hospitalizations, less duplication of treatment, and more appropriate use of technology.
- U.S. adults who have a primary care physician accumulate 33% lower health care-related costs.
- Medicare spending is lower in states with more primary care physicians, and these states also report more effective, higher-quality care.
Family Medicine: At the Center of Primary Care
Family medicine aims to reintegrate and personalize health care for patients, who are increasingly frustrated with the fragmented and complex health care system. It is a deviation from physician-centered traditional models of care, such as specialist care.
The family medicine model of care seeks to provide patients with a personal medical home through which they receive a full range of services within the context of a continuing relationship with their family physician.
Family physicians deliver acute, chronic, and preventive care, either directly or indirectly through established relationships with clinicians outside their practice.