The Impending Collapse of Primary Care: When is Someone Going to Notice?

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For 2 years, the Larry A. Green Center conducted weekly to monthly surveys among a national sample of primary medical care practices on how they were faring during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. As both a family physician and as one of the analysts of these surveys and the thousands of detailed comments accompanying them, I witnessed a courageous, professional, and deeply distressing saga. The most recent surveys hint at an impending collapse of primary medical care as we have known it. This Commentary reflects what I heard, from remarkable efforts to rapidly implement virtual care platforms and reach out to vulnerable patients in the face of workforce losses and inadequate assistance including lack of personal protective equipment to a sense of betrayal when vaccines finally arrived but primary medical care was, too often, left out of the distribution efforts. The last surveys highlighted a loss of primary care workforce and the potential collapse of relationship-centered primary medical care. One of the respondents asks, "When is someone going to notice?"Three areas for change are recommended. Build a larger, more diverse primary medical care workforce. Emphasize capitation as a foundation for payment reform in primary medical care. Establish primary health care extension services that focus on supporting practices and in helping them integrate with public health and their communities. Listening to each other, let us rise together with our patients and be noticed.




Medicine and Health Sciences




Department of Family Medicine

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