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July 08, 2022

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Nationally recognized experts discuss the future of Primary Care in America

Primary Care in America has been tested. Amid a public health emergency, primary care has innovated, evolved, and built tools for the future, but there is more to be done. Nationally recognized experts recently discussed the future of Primary Care in America at the PrimaryCare 22: See the Possibilities hybrid event.

Dr. David Blumenthal and Dr. Clive Fields kicked off the event, diving into how primary care is undervalued and underappreciated in America. In case you missed it, check out some highlights below or watch the full recordings here.

The Value of Primary Care Across the Lifespan

From pediatrics to geriatrics, patients of all ages (and their caregivers) benefit from primary care services. Access to these services are critical through all stages of life and for all populations. Dr. Ishani Ganguli moderated a panel with Dr. Eliana Perrin and Dr. Jessica Colburn to discuss this and highlighted that primary care is a “team-based sport.” When it comes to pediatricians, they are often the first witnesses to failed social policies, as Dr. Perrin noted, “I don’t know a single primary care provider who has not expanded scope.”

How Primary Care is Reducing Health Disparities

During a panel moderated by Dr. Kara Odom Walker, CMS Innovation Center Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Dora Hughes broke down actionable steps to build an equitable health care system. In the U.S., life expectancy has remained relatively flat at about 79 years for the general population between 2010 and 2018. However, lower life expectancies persist for people of color, indigenous people, rural communities, and individuals facing socioeconomic challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic had a disproportionate impact on these same populations, further exacerbating these longstanding inequities in health and life expectancy1.

“A sustainable solution to address health disparities and the shortage of primary care physicians is to hire physicians that will stay and work in these critical areas” – Roger Montgomery, Executive Medical Director, Cherokee Nation

Primary care provides important support such as preventive care and diagnosing and managing acute and chronic disease. In addition, primary care’s whole-person approach takes into account crucial factors beyond a patient’s physical health, such as mental, emotional, and social needs within their communities. Prioritizing integrated primary care and embedding a robust primary care workforce across the country will ensure that a person’s outcome and quality of care are not determined by zip code, socioeconomic status or race. Investing in primary care and the primary care workforce will continue to improve health equity for all.

Building the Primary Care Workforce

Dr. Candice Chen, Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity, chatted with Stephanie Quinn from the American Academy of Family Physicians on the ways that the primary care workforce can be expanded and diversified.

A message for young doctors – if you’re interested in social determinants of health, preventing health problems, have a deep interest in people’s stories, and have resilience, strength and fortitude, primary care is where you can make a difference.

The Future of Primary Care

To round out the 2-day hybrid event, Kyna Fong, CEO and Co-Founder of Elation Health, discussed the future of primary care and laid out specific next steps we can take. Fong has personally seen how high-value primary care can exist in so many different systems across our health care infrastructure and notes that we have an incredible opportunity to take primary care to the next level. She calls out three themes to focus on as we move forward 1) Reinventing our payment and incentive system, 2) Reinventing the primary care workforce system and 3) Reinventing (and setting a higher standard) for the technology we use.

“Primary Care is the highest value lever we have in the health care system.” Kyna Fong, CEO and Co-Founder of Elation Health

The American health care system is a tapestry of options for patients, but it suffers from misplaced priorities that produce overspending and underperformance, resulting in a population that is less healthy. With an unprecedented set of challenges that include escalating health care costs and a health care system that is prioritizing and incentivizing the wrong types of services, the future of the health of Americans and our health care system is uncertain.

Visit our resources page to learn more about how primary care is the key to driving innovation in patient care and better patient outcomes.