Greater access to features of high-quality primary care — including comprehensiveness, patient-centeredness and extended office hours — is associated with lower mortality, according to a new study.
The researchers said the study, which appears in the January-February issue of the Annals of Family Medicine, is the first to link the availability of three specific attributes of primary care with reduced risk of death.
“There are a number of studies that found lower mortality risk in geographic areas with relatively high concentrations of primary-care physicians, but these associations were not necessarily applicable to individual patients within those geographic areas,” Anthony Jerant, MD, professor of family and community medicine at University of California, Davis and lead author of the study, said in a news release.
“These studies also defined ‘primary care’ by physician specialty rather than by specific aspects of healthcare. We wanted to know if patients who reported having access to critical elements of primary care had lower mortality risk.”
In conducting the study, Jerant and his colleagues used data from the 2000-05 Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys, large-scale surveys of people living in the U.S. and their health and healthcare. The study used data for 52,241 respondents ages 18 to 90 for whom mortality information was available and who had one particular doctor’s office or clinic they visited for health information and treatment.
The researchers analyzed respondents’ reported access to three primary healthcare attributes: comprehensiveness, which includes the provision of care for new health problems, preventive care and referrals to other healthcare professionals; the availability of evening and weekend office hours; and patient-centeredness, meaning the healthcare provider listened to and sought the patient’s advice when deciding on treatments.
The researchers found that after adjusting for age, health status, weight, tobacco use and other health characteristics, greater reported access to the primary-care attributes was associated with significantly lower mortality during up to six years of follow-up.
“Our findings suggest that ongoing efforts to provide all Americans with a ‘medical home’ offering the primary-care attributes we studied could yield major public health benefits,” said Jerant, referring to the national movement to ensure access to patient-centered, comprehensive and continuously available primary-care services.
To read the study, visit http://bit.ly/ygdaLO.