The Role of Primary Care in Effective Disease Management
Primary care professionals serve on the front lines of health care. For many patients, they are the first point of contact with the health care system. That means they are often the first to see chronic disease and other health concerns. Through routine check-ups, primary care can head potentially dangerous problems off at the pass.
The population of the United States includes vast numbers of people with chronic and disabling conditions, and these numbers are expected to increase significantly in the coming years. An estimated 133 million Americans had one or more chronic conditions in 2005. By 2030, the number is projected to increase to 171 million.
Better Health Outcomes
Evidence shows that good access to primary care can help people live longer, feel better and avoid disability and long absences from work. In areas 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. When people don’t have access to a regular primary care provider, they end up in emergency rooms more often, and they’re admitted to hospitals more frequently. Without routine screening, a controllable condition like high cholesterol—which usually can be kept in check with common drugs—can eventually lead to a life-threatening heart attack.
Health care costs are lower when people have a primary care provider overseeing their care and coordinating all the tests, procedures, and follow-up care. Access to primary care helps keep people out of emergency rooms, where care costs at least four times as much as other outpatient care. A study in a North Carolina ER found that nearly 60 percent of the patients’ problems could have been addressed in a primary care clinic for a savings of a whopping 320-720 percent.
Catching and treating health issues early, which happens during annual check-ups, is also less expensive than treating severe or advanced illnesses, which often brings patients to specialists. If everyone saw a primary care provider first for their care, it would save the U.S. an estimated $67 billion every year.
Expanding Primary Care Access in Underserved Areas
For many low-income American communities, health centers are a critical source of health services, especially in areas where there aren’t enough private physician practices. These clinics, which serve more than 28 million people nationwide—many of them uninsured or covered by Medicaid—offer an array of primary and preventive health care and supportive services such as patient education, language translation and transportation.
The Patient-Centered Medical Home
Primary care clinics, especially those that follow the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) model, are at the forefront of the move to provide a community health care continuum. Focusing on building strong patient-provider relationships that encourage patients to be proactive, primary care providers guide integrated cradle-to-grave care. The evidence demonstrates the benefits of PCMH, including higher quality care, improved patient and provider experience, better prevention and management of disease and a reduction in health care costs.
The Primary Care Development Corporation (PCDC ) has helped more than 800 primary care practices across the country, including community health centers, hospital clinics, private practices, and specialty practices that achieve PCMH recognition. PCDC’s certified content experts provide strategic leadership, coaching and technical assistance to community health centers, hospital outpatient centers, private practices and special needs providers regularly.
The PCDC Transformation Loan Fund can provide the upfront capital needed to support practice transformation and make the critical staffing and infrastructure upgrades essential to receive a PCMH designation.
Join the growing number of practices PCDC has helped attain PCMH certification, or learn more about our programs that build healthy, thriving communities through community investments, capacity-building, and policy initiatives.
100% Success Rate: PCMH Recognition
PCDC supports primary care practices across the nation — including community health centers, hospital clinics, private practices, and specialty practices — to improve the quality of their care and the sustainability of their practices.