Researchers find that access to primary care physician does not guarantee better health

Researchers from the Dartmouth Atlas have found that patients that have access to a primary care physician and patients who visit their primary care physician at least one time per year were no less likely to be hospitalized for a chronic condition than people who did not have access to, or did not visit their primary care physician.

Other key findings from the study:

  • The number of primary care doctors in a region did not affect the proportion of people who visited their primary care physician per year.
  • Blacks were found to be less likely to visit a primary care physician, and more likely to be hospitalized or have a leg amputated as a result of severe diabetes or peripheral vascular disease.

The researchers do conclude that improving results will require changing the way medical providers are paid so that primary care doctors, specialists and hospitals all have incentives to coordinate care.

(Sources: The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, A Report of the Dartmouth Atlas Project, September, 2010, http://www.dartmouthatlas.org; The Advisory Board Daily Briefing, http://advisory.com, September 14, 2010)