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Patients Say Primary Care Access Pushes Health Industry Growth

Eighty-six percent of patients agree that access to primary care can improve health outcomes, care quality, and can lead to lower healthcare costs.

Patients value access to primary care to improve health outcomes.

Source: Thinkstock

- Patients agree that primary care access is key to improving the healthcare industry, and they want to see better support for patients and primary care physicians, according to a survey from Health is Primary, a campaign hosted by Family Medicine for America’s Health.

Eighty-six percent of the nearly 23,000 survey respondents agreed that access to primary care can improve health outcomes, care quality, and also lead to lower costs.

Patients reported that they value the holistic view of patient health most PCPs take, the survey authors said. Eighty-nine percent of respondents said that it is important for patients to have a healthy and meaningful relationship with their primary care physician, and 88 percent say it’s important for the industry to ensure patients can easily access PCPs.

Patient access to a primary care physician and establishing a meaningful relationship between physician and patient is integral to primary care. Strong patient-provider relationships usually lead to more coordinated care and more value-based care, the survey authors wrote.

Patients also valued primary care because of its emphasis on preventive medicine. Eighty-four percent of respondents agree that the industry should put a larger focus on preventive care. Eighty-eight percent of respondents acknowledged that preventive and wellness care keeps patients healthier in the long-term.

Eighty-eight percent of respondents also stated that the industry should ensure adequate access to primary care physicians, and support PCPs who may be leaving their practices and contributing to a clinician shortage issue.

Driving preventive care and improving long-term patient wellness are key for reducing healthcare costs, which is a high priority for 91 percent of survey respondents.

Eighty-five percent of patients said the industry should shift to more value-based reimbursement models to make healthcare more affordable for patients who are generally healthy. Eighty-nine percent of respondents added that industry experts should work to reduce healthcare costs across the entire care continuum.

Investing more in primary care can help support these goals, the survey authors said. Research has shown that for every dollar invested into primary care, the healthcare industry subsequently saves $13 in costs down the road. This is notable due to the increasing cost burden many patients are facing.

As the healthcare industry continues to see shakeups, many experts have been concerned with patient access to primary care. Primary care physicians have been responsible for delivering quality preventive care, spurring more long-term patient wellness and reducing fee-for-service healthcare costs.

Many healthcare experts have also recognized primary care as an ideal place to integrate important but oft-forgotten healthcare services, such as mental and behavioral health. Integrated mental health and primary care has been proven to cut depression scores by up to one half.

Primary care providers have also been instrumental in delivering palliative care for patients facing a serious illness.

Many industry professionals have been concerned with ensuring patients have ample access to the service because of the large role primary care physicians play in overall patient wellness.

One study published earlier this year looked into primary care access following health coverage expansion due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Medicaid beneficiaries saw a 5.4 percent increase in primary care access after the ACA. Privately insured patients saw little increase in care access, but no decrease, either.

A separate study found that access to preventive services in the primary care setting also increased under the ACA from 59 to 73 percent. Short appointment wait times (less than one week) decreased, while long wait times (30 or more days) increased. However, these wait time changes were less than 10 percent, a negligible increase, the researchers said.

“The appointment availability results should ease concerns that the Affordable Care Act would exacerbate the primary care shortage,” the researchers said. “Primary care practices may be adapting to an influx of new patients with shorter visits and more rigorous management of no-shows.”

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