Why Primary Care

Primary care can help put the health back in health care. A system based on primary care can help us deliver on the Triple Aim: better health, better care, and lower costs.


The Promise

Better Health

  • Evidence shows that access to primary care can help us live longer, healthier lives.
  • Studies suggest that as many as 127,617 deaths per year in the United States could be averted through an increase in the number of primary care physicians.
  • In areas of the country 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.

Better Care

  • Urban and rural communities that have an adequate supply of primary care doctors experience lower infant mortality, higher birth weights, and immunization rates at or above national standards despite social disparities.
  • An increase of 1 primary care doctor per 10,000 people can decrease costly and unnecessary care.
  • Evidence shows that primary care (in contrast to specialty care) is associated with a more equitable distribution of heath in populations.

Lower Cost

  • A primary care-based system may cost less because patients experience fewer hospitalizations, less duplication, and more appropriate technology.
  • U.S. adults who have a primary care physician have 33 percent lower health care costs.
  • Medicare spending is less for states with more primary care physicians and yet these states have more effective, higher-quality care.

A health system that undervalues primary care has resulted in health care spending that is more than double that of other industrialized countries, yet America ranks 24th out of 30 in life expectancy.

Make Health Primary

We can build a primary care system that puts patients at the center of their care and improves the health of all Americans. We can create an America where Health is Primary, a place where:

  • Doctors and patients work together in true partnership;
  • Doctors have long-term relationships with their patients and see and treat the whole person;
  • Technology supports and fosters the connection between doctors and patients;
  • Everyone has access to a primary care home where most, if not all, of their health needs can be met and a coordinated medical neighborhood that provides additional care when needed;
  • Prevention and health promotion are as important as treating disease;
  • Doctors are working in partnership with community leaders to address individual and population health;
  • Health disparities are reduced by increasing access to primary care; and,
  • Financial incentives line up with good care and better health outcomes.

The Promise in Action

Improving Care by Involving Patient Perspectives—Voice of the Patient Project

Team-based, patient-centered care lowers costs, improves care and improves outcomes by involving patients in their own care. The Greater Detroit Area Health Council (GDAHC) and the Michigan Primary Care Transformation Initiative (MiPCT) started the Voice of the Patient Project to develop Patient and Family Advisory Councils.

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Student Partnerships in Chicago’s South Side Improve Community Health—University of Chicago Medicine’s Summer Service Partnership

Youth on Chicago's South Side face critical public health issues, including obesity, violence and sexual health. As director of the University of Chicago Medicine’s Summer Service Partnership (SSP), Kohar Jones, M.D., partners medical students on teams with local youth to promote community health and address health disparities.

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Fostering the Primary Care Workforce through Student Loan Repayment—Michigan State Loan Repayment Plan

The burden of student loans debt facing medical students is a major challenge, which poses serious risk to primary care as students are opting for higher-paying specialties. In an effort to combat this threat, the Michigan Department of Community Health developed the Michigan State Loan Repayment Plan.

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