Investing more in primary care could lower health spending — if patients would go along

The United States spends roughly twice as much on health as other developed countries, over $10,000 per person in 2017. But compared with its peers, the U.S. spends less than half as much on primary care, and maybe that’s the problem.

Primary care can mean different things, but it generally includes visits to a family doctor and an emphasis on preventing disease, managing chronic conditions and coordinating care. Many proponents talk about getting patients to the right care in the right place at the right time because they believe that approach leads to healthier outcomes at a lower price.

“The goal of the health care system should be to promote better health,” said Dr. Christopher Crow, a longtime family physician who started an integrated network to help independent primary care doctors. “If we do that well, it usually lowers the costs.”


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