Why primary care is important

Everyone is talking about controlling health care costs. One way to do this is to invest in primary care. Too bad that isn’t happening:

Areas of the United States where the most care is delivered by primary care physicians have lower overall costs, higher patient satisfaction, and, as a rule, better outcomes. A primary care doctor can be a trusted, friendly advisor who sees a patient over many years. When serious health problems strike, the primary care doctor can become the patient’s medical shepherd, helping to guide him through a complicated system of specialists and hospitals.

In any rational health care system, primary care doctors are central to keeping quality of care high and costs low. Unfortunately, the system in the United States is far from rational, and the number of primary care doctors is plummeting. In 1949, 59 percent of doctors worked in primary care, but by 1995 that number was down to 37 percent.