Do primary care centers pose a threat to hospitals and the current healthcare system? In short, yes, but only if you consider improved population health and cost-savings a threat. We prefer, instead, to think of primary care centers as the perfect delivery vehicle for a health revolution — one that doesn’t have to be at odds with either hospitals or the healthcare system.
Better primary care disrupts the status quo
A recent Forbes article regarding primary care centers across the US cites several reasons for their rise, including independent financing and the desire of primary care partners to expand doctor’s offices, urgent care, and community care centers throughout the country.
While those may be contributing factors, the most important reason that primary care centers are increasing in popularity is that they work.In the current system, the prevailing patient experience is one marked by frustration and dissatisfaction. Appointment wait times have gotten longer while the visits themselves only average about 15 minutes.
Primary care providers act as filters for specialists, unable to give adequate time and attention to each patient before the next one is ushered in. Rather than performing more services for which they’re qualified — like diagnosis, consulting, and treatment — providers are instead hampered by restrictive referral processes.
In contrast, primary care emphasizes time-rich appointments, increased engagement, and strong provider-patient relationships in order to better address health concerns and deliver more targeted treatment. Providers are able to practice at the top of their licenses, providing care that would otherwise have been outsourced to a specialist.
Data claims analysis helps providers to identify risks to vulnerable patients while health coaching gives patients further tools to change behaviors and work toward lifelong health. By keeping most services “in-house” with a dedicated team, primary care creates more streamlined processes that improve health while driving down costs.
Primary care doesn’t have to be a threat
An effective primary care model doesn’t have to work against hospitals or the existing healthcare system. In fact, introducing primary care centers within a hospital network can create an effective partnership that optimizes the healthcare experience.
For example, the UnitedHealth Group (UHG) one of the largest health insurers in the United States, recently started expanding their primary care offerings, including “doctor practices and MedExpress urgent care centers across the country in dozens of markets across the U.S.”
Insurers like UHG benefit from having a primary care partner that can deliver better member health, lower costs, and improve population health outcomes. Doing so shows commitment to providing the best services and products, along with an investment in member satisfaction, which helps to ensure they stay competitive against other insurers, carriers, and networks.
Primary care gets better results
In Florida, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, in partnership with another primary care provider for the past four years, has seen “32% lower inpatient admissions and 20% lower emergency room visits compared to similar groups. They now have plans to open primary care centers in Texas and expand the number of existing centers throughout New Jersey.
In addition to improving health, well-executed primary care has the added benefit of significant cost-savings. Partnering with us has saved Seattle Children’s $3.5 million net in addition to lowering days spent in hospital by 80%. In the City of Kirkland, Vera model primary care centers have seen over 80% employee engagement and 34.7% average ROI. Our partners typically see a 25% reduction in healthcare costs in the first year alone.