Primary care is the foundation of the U.S. health care system. Effective primary care initiates care coordination and prioritizes care management; ensures that interventions continue across delivery settings; improves quality, outcomes, and patient experiences; and contains costs by reducing downstream utilization of more expensive services delivered by specialists or in hospitals.
UnitedHealth Group has updated several components of its 2014 report on practical, proven and scalable approaches for advancing primary care delivery. The update’s key findings include:
Gains in primary care access and utilization
- Alongside an increase in health coverage of 20 million people since 2010, there have been significant, incremental increases in reported access to, and utilization of, primary care among adults 18 to 64.
Substantial and persistent gaps in primary care access
- Despite incremental short-term gains, access to primary care remains a challenge both for the uninsured and for many individuals with health coverage.
Increasing demand for primary care
- As the U.S. health care system increasingly serves a larger, older, and sicker population, demand for primary care will continue to increase over the next decade and beyond.
The primary care capacity challenge
- By 2025, the estimated shortage of primary care physicians will grow to be between 15,000 and 36,000.
Opportunities to leverage nurse practitioners
- Nurse practitioners deliver high-quality primary care at scale, including in underserved communities.
Opportunities to leverage urgent care centers and retail health clinics
- There is a substantial unmet need for reliable, high-quality care provided in convenient locations with extended hours, walk-in options, and low wait times. Urgent care centers and retail health clinics offer additional options for patients with low- and medium-acuity conditions to access high-quality and cost-effective primary care.