The Crucial Role of Primary Care in Creating a Workable Health System for All Americans

by Julian Malinak
The Crucial Role of Primary Care in Creating a Workable Health System for All Americans

There are a lot of different angles researchers have taken on this topic, but nearly everything I’ve seen points in the same direction: access to primary care is good for health outcomes and efficiency. It helps patients get access to the treatments they need and reduces wasteful and unnecessary utilization of specialty and acute services.

One interesting approach is to compare quality and cost outcomes with variations in the primary care workforce. From Mark Friedberg and colleagues in Health Affairs, reviewing a range of studies: “The preponderance of studies comparing levels of resource use by primary care practitioners and specialists find that patients of primary care providers have lower levels of use, such as fewer diagnostic tests and procedures, and incur equal or lower costs of care.” Regarding quality, primary care access is associated with favorable outcomes from less all-cause mortality to a decreased rate of low birth weight.

Primary care is particularly important to bridging health inequity. Not only does access to primary care help reduce disparities in health outcomes, but it’s a remarkably less expensive setting than specialty or acute care. This is especially relevant as purchasers move toward insurance products that emphasize a higher degree of patient responsibility for cost.

There’s a lot about primary care access that does not directly relate to software (at least right now): the valuing of procedural work (e.g., surgery) over cognitive work (e.g., a long doctor-patient consultation), or the uniquely American system of employer-sponsored insurance bouncing consumers around provider networks. But there are a few important ways that software can improve access. In particular, the right software can make it more attractive to be a primary care clinician in two broad ways:

Bridge the pay gap between primary care and other specialities. There are significant opportunities to increase revenue and decrease costs for primary care providers. Here at Canvas, we are particularly excited about helping primary care practices earn more via non-fee-for-service and risk-based revenue streams.

Improve the day-to-day. The track record of technology is quite bad when it comes to increasing physician burnout. We think we’ve begun to find a way forward in this regard — not just to reduce the amount of time spent on tiresome clerical tasks, but also to provide powerful tools to enhance the practice of medicine.

If you’re interested in exploring these topics further with us, send us a note!

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