The primary care physician plays a vital role in a patient’s healthcare outcomes. Primary care is the “point of entry,” the first line of defense against disease, and the coordination point for expanded healthcare service for the patient. Primary care also impacts the community as a whole, providing a focused point of assistance for the patient’s extended support network and managing population health overall.
There are five main ways that primary care plays a role in patient care and in the community:
The primary care physician ensures that patients receive the appropriate immunizations and screenings that help prevent serious conditions such as influenza. Primary care also plays a role in helping patients learn more about the effects of adverse lifestyle issues, such as smoking and obesity, working with them on cessation and weight reduction plans that prevent further, more serious issues from arising.
Research has shown that “patients admitted to hospitals with complications related to a manageable health condition, such as hypertension, were four times more likely to lack access to a primary health care provider.” The primary care physician is able to monitor a patient’s signs and symptoms and manage potentially adverse health conditions to help the patient reduce the likelihood of developing a more serious condition.
Coordination of care
When a patient’s condition needs further treatment, the primary care physician is most effective in coordinating with specialty providers and healthcare facilities. Using technology tools such as electronic health records (EHRs), the provider is able to seamlessly and efficiently coordinate that care.
Healthier communities through increased access
The community as a whole benefits when its members are healthier. Studies have shown that populations that have access to primary care tend to have healthier outcomes. Primary care access is “particularly important for isolated or deprived population groups that may not have the means to access these services otherwise.”
Continuity of care
The primary care physician who becomes the main point of contact throughout a patient’s medical care is able to monitor any change in that patient’s situation and quickly act upon it, with diagnostic tests or preventative services. The patient benefits tremendously from having a medical home in the primary care physician’s office.