Continuing progress in primary care

Topics impacting the medical community that generally make headlines tend to focus on the rising costs of healthcare, the continuing debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and budget impacts on programs like Medicare and Medicaid. However, there have been some remarkable achievements as well as continued progress in primary care.

Glen Stream, MD, FAAFP, MBI, a family physician practicing in La Quinta, California, past president of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and current president and board chair of Family Medicine for America’s Health, says that “primary care systems continued to deliver on the Triple Aim of providing better quality healthcare that improves population health while lowering costs.”

Dr. Stream identifies what he considers to be the top five achievements for primary care in 2017:

States increased investment in primary care. States like Oregon and California have passed legislation favoring primary care. For example, Oregon now requires “all commercial insurers in the state to invest at least 12 percent of their total medical expenditures into primary care by the year 2023.”

Home-based primary care saved millions for Medicare. The CMS Innovation Center’s Independence at Home Demonstration “saved participating practices over $7 million, an average of $746 in savings per Medicare beneficiary.” The program results reiterated “the value of home-based primary care and its ability to improve the overall quality of care and life for patients served while reducing costs.”

CMS’ Comprehensive Primary Care Plus program spurred care delivery transformation. This initiative is a “five-year, multi-payer program that aims to strengthen primary care in America through the expansion of Advanced Primary Care Medical Homes.” The medical home model has proven to be instrumental in improving the quality of care provided to patients.

Primary care practices embraced the “all-under-one-roof” model and integration of services. Understanding the value of the medical home model, primary care physicians are working collaboratively to “treat traditional acute and chronic conditions but also offer behavioral and mental health services.”

Record number of sign-ups during first weeks of open enrollment. In November 2017, when enrollment for healthcare under the ACA opened, 1.5 million people signed up for coverage in the first eleven days. Dr. Stream emphasizes that the medical community must “continue to encourage patients to fully utilize their primary care benefits and choose health plans that prioritize primary care.”