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Published: August 30, 2021

Show and Tell: How to Achieve High Quality Primary Care

By Laura Murphy, DO

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report in May titled, “Implementing High Quality Primary Care: Rebuilding the Foundation of Health Care”. In the report the committee outlines an implementation plan on how to achieve high quality primary care (HQPC) through 5 main objectives:

  • Pay for primary care teams to care for people, not doctors to deliver services
  • Ensure that HQPC is available to every individual and family in every community
  • Train primary care teams where people live and work
  • Design information technology that serves patients, their families, and the interprofessional primary care team
  • Ensure that HQPC is implemented in the United States

Unlike the 1996 Institute of Medicine report, this report discusses ways to measure the progress of certain benchmarks and how to ensure that these benchmarks are reached by holding delegated groups accountable. “We cannot improve what we don’t measure” the committee emphasizes in their first webinar after the report was released. The committee also underscores the importance that primary care be regarded as a “common good” due to its unique association with increased life expectancy on an individual and population health level. The report did not go so far as to recommend universal health care, however, since the intention was to provide recommendations that could be implemented right now in our current political and healthcare climate. But are these changes enough? Many of you may know that past calls for better primary care integration in our health system had failed to gain traction, so why should we expect any different this time?

Well timing can be everything, and the timeliness of this report is key. The last 18 months have highlighted the remarkable potential of primary care in helping to overcome public health crises, vaccine hesitancy, and social and health inequities, while at the same time revealing that our system has not invested the necessary resources into primary care that is needed for that full potential to be realized. Combine this with the heightened public awareness of the legislative power to influence health care (just think of telemedicine!), there seems to be no better time than now to bring the recommendations in this report to action. The origins of family medicine, after all, was catapulted from social reform. It only makes sense that our evolution, or better yet our “revolution”, continues to adapt to the needs of our patients rather than the other way around.

You can access the full list of the NASEM committee’s webinars discussing this report here.

CAFP will be addressing the issues raised in this report through education at the Forum and through advocacy and policy work at AMAM.

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