This specialty could reduce healthcare spending

Primary care providers are an important factor in improving patient outcomes and reducing healthcare spending, but the system is showing cracks, The Washington Post reported Oct. 17.

More investment in accessible, comprehensive and community-based services has allowed countries with fewer resources — including Chile, Costa Rica and Portugal — to gain on the U.S. in life expectancy. Evidence shows that primary care improves population health, reduces disparities and saves money, but the field is attracting fewer medical students.

To reverse this trend, HHS made a commitment to strengthen primary care and is soliciting input from providers. Two senators, meanwhile, recently announced a $26 billion bill aimed at expanding primary care and reducing staff shortages.

Here are four things to know about the primary care shortage's effect on patients:

  • A 2019 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that every 10 additional primary care physicians per 100,000 people was associated with 51.5 more days of life expectancy.

  • Addressing basic patient problems in the emergency room costs up to 12 times more than in primary care offices, amounting to billions of additional dollars spent each year, according to an analysis from UnitedHealth Group.

  • Fewer than 9% of third-year internal medicine residents are interested in primary care, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

  • About 100 million Americans live in primary care workforce shortage areas, which is acute in rural areas where hospitals are shutting down, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.

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