Being healthy isn’t a thing that anyone wakes up and decides to do one day – instead, it’s the culmination of many small decisions a person makes over the course of time, like getting regular physicals and monitoring changes in the way their body behaves.
A great many of those decisions are easier to make when patients have a primary care doctor – someone who understands their background, their medical history, and who they have a relationship with. That relationship is one of the most important connections in American healthcare.
That’s because primary care providers are typically medical generalists who serve as the first point of contact for many interactions with the healthcare system, whether that means providing treatment for a sore throat or advising a patient on when to get a cancer screening. Whatever a patient’s healthcare journey looks like, long or short, chances are it started with a visit to their primary care provider.
The importance of primary care providers
The impact that primary care providers can have on health outcomes is both positive and well-established. Studies have long shown that states where it’s easier to access primary care have lower overall mortality rates, including lower mortality rates for conditions like cancer and heart disease.
In addition to improving outcomes, there’s evidence that access to primary care helps patients access preventive treatments and aids in detecting serious health problems early, when they can be more effectively addressed.
A trusting relationship with a primary care provider isn’t just about one-on-one interactions, either. In an era where medical misinformation is widely disseminated and often hard to identify, a having a doctor they know and trust gives patients somewhere to turn for reliable medical advice.
Unfortunately, the number of Americans who have a primary care physician is on the decline.
Access to primary care is in decline
While urgent care offices and emergency rooms are important ways for patients to access timely treatment for acute conditions, they’re not meant to be anyone’s go-to touchpoint for healthcare. Unfortunately, emergency room use is on the rise, while the number of Americans who have a primary care physician fell from 77% in 2002 to 75% in 2015.
While a 2% decline may not seem like cause for alarm, that seemingly small figure represents millions fewer Americans who have a primary care provider – someone who understands not only their immediate healthcare needs but has context for them. Compounding the issue, primary care doctors became less common in the U.S. over a similar timeframe – between 2005 and 2015, the rate of primary care doctors per 100,000 people fell from 46.6 to 41.4.
Finding primary care with Accolade
With the importance of primary care in mind, Open Enrollment season is a great time to communicate to your employees the importance of finding a primary care doctor – and to educate them about how Accolade can help.
Accolade Total Care members, for instance, can contact a Health Assistant via phone or online chat to help find a primary care physician that’s convenient for them to get to and takes their insurance. They can also drill down to find PCPs with different qualities that they find important, such as a doctor of the same gender, or one who speaks the language they’re most comfortable communicating in. All of these factors are important in building a trusting, lasting relationship with a primary care doctor, and Accolade is here to help.