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In this week's episode of the NextGen Advisor Podcast, Dr. Betty Rabinowitz, Graham Brown, and Dr. Martin Lustick discuss how primary care has been the foundation supporting the entire American healthcare system.

Strong primary care is associated with improvements in overall health outcomes, and thanks to a report written in collaboration between the Robert Graham Center, the American Board of Family Medicine, and IBM Watson Health, a chartbook of facts and statistics provides a snapshot into the current state of primary care in this country.

The report showed that for every 1,000 citizens in the US, 800 reported symptoms during the year, 327 considered seeking medical care, 217 of them visited a physician’s office – of which, 113 visited a primary care physician – 104 visited a specialist, 65 visited a complimentary or alternative medical care provider, and 21 visited a hospital-based outpatient clinic

From this snapshot of 1,000 citizens, one can see how the US population is really accessing care. More people are accessing primary care than any other health service, which shows the importance the role of a primary care provider can play in a patient’s routine care.

It is also interesting to note that 65 of the 1,000 are visiting complimentary providers or alternative medical care providers. This suggests that there may not be a strong understanding within the public, of the role that a primary care provider plays in both preventive care and chronic condition management.

Or this number could come from the struggle to keep primary care access convenient, keep flexible hours, and to have fewer barriers to entry. The report also focused on the composition of the primary care workforce, and that currently the US reported just under 230,000 primary care physicians, which is about one third of the overall physician workforce. Initially, that number seems promising, but that number falls short of the 40% recommended by the Council on Graduate Medical Education.

Well, what about physicians’ assistants or nurse practitioners, could they be of any help? More and more provider organizations are looking to them to extend the clinical team and address any shortage problems.

A study done at the University of California modeled that a primary care physician working 43 hours a week and 48 weeks out of the year – could take care of about 900 patients. But, if they were delegated to other levels of care, like physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners, they could take care of 2,000 patients.

However, a lot of these physicians are expected to not delegate the work, and still take care of 2,000 patients, which could then lead to physician burn-out.

There is a lot to think about when it comes to the evolution of primary care in the US, but it could be advantageous to implement something as simple as a virtual solution. Something that can significantly help a provider see more patients and help prevent burn-out.

To get a more in-depth look at what was discussed above, listen to this week’s podcast: Primary Care Takes Center Stage in the Evolution of Care.

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