Access to Quality Primary Care Builds Thriving Communities
Study after study has confirmed that access to quality primary care is a significant factor for better health outcomes. Primary care provides critically essential prevention and treatment and improves well-being. It is the cornerstone of resilient and vibrant communities.
Too often, underserved communities face myriad obstacles to receive comprehensive primary care. Disparities—lack of health care insurance, language barriers, disabilities, inability to take time off work to attend appointments, geographic and transportation-related barriers—are frequently responsible for negative health outcomes. Community investments, capacity-building assistance and policy initiatives provide a path to ensure that all communities experience better health outcomes.
Investment in our nation’s primary care is critical to ensuring preparedness for emerging threats; for preventing disease, illness, and injury in communities; and promoting good health and well-being. Inadequate access to public health services has a disparate impact on poor, rural and minority communities where primary care services are a significant source of health care. In addition to providing critically important, community-based prevention and treatment in underserved communities, access to primary care prevents unnecessary and expensive trips to emergency rooms.
The Primary Care Development Corporation (PCDC) works with community health centers and practices to ensure that everyone—not just some—benefit from quality health care, which is fundamental to what matters most to people: opportunity and good quality of life for themselves and future generations.
One in five Americans lives in rural areas (19.3 percent), according to the 2017 U.S. Census. According to the American Hospital Association, rural residents, compared with their urban counterparts, tend to be poorer and older, live alone, and be without health insurance. Travel distances and a shortage of primary care providers can limit people’s ability to get primary care. In situations where rural residents need to travel long distances for care, they may be less likely to seek preventive care, such as vaccinations.
An individual’s zip code is also a predictor of their access to high-quality primary care in poor, urban communities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. cities are home to nearly 63 percent of the American population. This number is expected to grow to 87.4 percent by 2050, according to data and projections by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Poverty, homelessness and other adverse conditions create barriers to high-quality primary care.
The patient-centered medical home (PCMH) model makes high-quality care available to more people. Achieving the PCMH designation involves a rigorous certification process through an outside agency and oversight to ensure that goals are consistently met. Studies have shown that practices with PCMH recognition consistently outperformed practices without recognition on most clinical quality measures. The benefits underserved communities need the most to enable easy access to care.
Altura Centers for Health, located in rural communities in central California, is an example of a health system that maximized its capabilities to make comprehensive, quality health care services available to thousands of rural inhabitants. Working with PCDC, Altura was able to achieve Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH).
PCDC was instrumental in helping Project Renewal conquer the barrier between health care and the homeless population in New York. Through its partnership with PCDC, it provided services to the uninsured to prevent issues resulting from a lack of treatment for better health outcomes.
PCDC has helped nearly 770 practices achieve PCMH recognition with a 100 percent success rate. Since 2008, PCDC’s certified content experts have provided strategic leadership, coaching, and technical assistance to community health centers, hospital outpatient centers, private practices, and special needs providers regularly. Our team of experts supports care providers in building capacity, transforming practices, and measuring and improving outcomes. We meet practices where they are to create individualized plans for achieving PCMH recognition, including one-to-one coaching, tools, resources, and support.
Access to primary care is an essential service to build and maintain healthy communities and should be made available to all Americans.