Why Primary Care

Primary care can help put the health back in health care. A system based on primary care can help us deliver on the Triple Aim: better health, better care, and lower costs.

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The Promise

Better Health

  • Evidence shows that access to primary care can help us live longer, healthier lives.
  • Studies suggest that as many as 127,617 deaths per year in the United States could be averted through an increase in the number of primary care physicians.
  • 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 be hospitalized.

Better Care

  • Urban and rural communities that have an adequate supply of primary care doctors experience lower infant mortality, higher birth weights, and immunization rates at or above national standards despite social disparities.
  • An increase of 1 primary care doctor per 10,000 people can decrease costly and unnecessary care.
  • Evidence shows that primary care (in contrast to specialty care) is associated with a more equitable distribution of heath in populations.

Lower Cost

  • A primary care-based system may cost less because patients experience fewer hospitalizations, less duplication, and more appropriate technology.
  • U.S. adults who have a primary care physician have 33 percent lower health care costs.
  • Medicare spending is less for states with more primary care physicians and yet these states have more effective, higher-quality care.

A health system that undervalues primary care has resulted in health care spending that is more than double that of other industrialized countries, yet America ranks 24th out of 30 in life expectancy.

Make Health Primary

We can build a primary care system that puts patients at the center of their care and improves the health of all Americans. We can create an America where Health is Primary, a place where:

  • Doctors and patients work together in true partnership;
  • Doctors have long-term relationships with their patients and see and treat the whole person;
  • Technology supports and fosters the connection between doctors and patients;
  • Everyone has access to a primary care home where most, if not all, of their health needs can be met and a coordinated medical neighborhood that provides additional care when needed;
  • Prevention and health promotion are as important as treating disease;
  • Doctors are working in partnership with community leaders to address individual and population health;
  • Health disparities are reduced by increasing access to primary care; and,
  • Financial incentives line up with good care and better health outcomes.

The Promise in Action

Family Physician Uses Group Visits to Combat Diabetes—Devin Sawyer, M.D., Providence St. Peter Family Medicine, Olympia, WA
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Devin Sawyer, M.D., director of the residency program at Providence St. Peter Family Medicine in Olympia, Wash., has been using "mini-group visits" (usually three patients per group) to help patients with diabetes support each other through treatment.

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Advancing Health Through Support of Primary Care and the Patient Centered Medical Home—The Dow Chemical Company, Midland, Mich.
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The Dow Chemical Company has a long history of strong commitment to employee and public health, including onsite health services for occupational health for many decades.

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Utilizing Primary Care to Improve Community Health—Robert R. Frank Student-Run Free Clinic, Detroit
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In Detroit, there are more than 100,000 uninsured residents. In order to extend access to primary care services to this underserved population, volunteer medical students from Wayne State University School of Medicine opened the Robert R. Frank Student-Run Free Clinic in 2010.

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