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The future potential for primary care

The future potential for primary care

Primary health care involves treating short-term health problems, managing long-term health conditions such as diabetes, and even helping you learn how to prevent injury and illness. Prevention is a key objective of primary health care. In 2012, physician doubt about the future of healthcare has been driven by declining reimbursement rates, slow growth and increasing costs, recession, a drop in patient numbers, the uncertainty of the Affordable Care Act, and staggering student debt for new doctors entering the profession. And although the state of primary care today seems like a losing proposition to some, the game is changing. Joe Flower, a Sausilito, California-based healthcare analyst says history will show that 2010-2012 was a kind of tipping point. There appears to be a growing focus on primary care providers in anticipation of new payment methodologies, a focus on coordinating care, and a focus on effective utilization of the system as well as lowering costs.

The U.S. primary care system is struggling under increasing demands and expectations, diminishing economic margins, and increasing workforce attrition compounded by diminishing recruitment of new physicians, nurses, and physician assistants into primary care. Approximately one-third of physicians currently practice in primary care but fewer than one-fourth of current medical school graduates are going into primary care. Findings show that in the coming years, primary care physicians (PCPs) will take their place at the center of the healthcare delivery system, and this change will usher in a new era of team-based, coordinated care that will lower healthcare costs overall and level the playing field regarding salaries for PCPs compared with their specialist colleagues. Compensation of primary care physicians, now at more than $200,000, grew at a faster rate than specialists over the last five years, a sign that those who hire health professionals are putting a greater emphasis on lower the cost of outpatient care. Meanwhile, nurse practitioners are being financially rewarded for filling voids in the primary care field. Nurse Practitioners saw their compensation jump 18% over the five year period ending last year to more than $91,000.

Nurses and Nurse Practitioners are seen as a real resource in the industry to provide an additional foundation for the delivery of care. They will be one of the likely health professions that the USA will look for to support primary care needs in the future. The healthcare system, as it is structured today, centres on the relationship between hospitals and specialists. The new centre of healthcare will be organised around primary care, and the hospitals and specialists will be seen as adjuncts to help primary care physicians care for their patients. This is a very large and very significant shift, said Flower.