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The impact of greater access to primary care

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Access to primary care can make a huge difference to individuals as well as to the healthcare system overall. Having a primary care physician as a base for healthcare services enables a patient to build trust with that physician. In turn, patient access enables the physician to more effectively coordinate services and provide the overall healthcare needed by each patient.

According to the Institute of Medicine, Committee on Monitoring Access to Personal Health Care Services, access to healthcare means “the timely use of personal health services to achieve the best health outcomes.”

Greater access to primary care impacts a number of health outcomes, including:

  • Communication. When a patient has access to a primary care physician, that patient also has access to communication with the physician, before, during, and after the visit. Particularly when the primary care physician uses a tool such as an EHR system, communication is secure and seamless.
  • Coordinated care. Patient access to a primary care physician means that patient has someone to coordinate care between specialty providers, labs, pharmacies, and healthcare facilities. Duplication and errors are greatly reduced and, in some cases, completely eliminated through improved coordination.
  • Reduced costs. The healthcare system overall sees reduced costs when patients have greater access to primary care. According to Health is Primary, a recent study has shown that “every $1 invested in primary care leads to $13 in savings.”
  • Integrated services. In addition to coordinating care with specialty healthcare providers, primary care physicians can also integrate healthcare services with additional providers such as mental health or social services.
  • Improved patient health. Access to a primary care physician can help the patient and the physician focus more on preventive medicine. Keeping healthy patients healthy is a key priority for independent primary care physicians as well as for their patients.

Developing a relationship with a primary care physician is important to a patient’s overall health. Access to primary care is an essential first step in building that relationship, maintaining the patient’s health, reducing or eliminating expenses and errors, and keeping the costs down in the healthcare system in general.