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BPC’s Anand Parekh: Primary-care practitioners will be key players in the value-based transformation of health care

Modern Healthcare

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Studies continue to demonstrate that a strong supply of primary-care physicians is related to more effective delivery of preventive care and lower rates of mortality, emergency room visits and hospital admissions.

In fact, some of the best evidence of primary-care medicine’s impact on these outcomes comes from studies that highlight its role as a frequent source of care and the site of first patient contact. Primary-care providers are absolutely essential to the goal of achieving a value-based transformation of our health care system.

Unfortunately, it is not easy to practice primary-care medicine in this country. Specifically, the current delivery and payment landscape does not allow providers to spend the amount of time they need to examine patients or reflect on their cases. This leads to many deleterious consequences, from unnecessary consults and diagnostic tests to increased stress, job dissatisfaction and burnout.

Primary-care physicians make up less than one-third of the U.S. physician workforce but provide over half of all physician office visits. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the number of primary-care physicians relative to the U.S. population has been virtually flat for nearly the past decade—roughly 90 active primary-care physicians per 100,000 population. However, now is the time, more than ever, when we need more primary-care access.