The Issue

What is primary care?

Primary care means frontline care, and it can come from doctors (family physicians, internists, or pediatricians), physician assistants, or nurse practitioners. Primary care clinicians are the quarterbacks of patient care. They make sure that their patients and their issues don’t fall through the cracks of our increasingly confusing health care system. Primary care clinicians care for their patients across the spectrum of their care, including:

  • being the first point of contact for undiagnosed health problems
  • comprehensive, whole-person care
  • building longitudinal relationships and treating chronic problems
  • coordinating across other health services

(Source: Vanderbilt Department of Medicine)

Why is primary care so important?

It’s simple: Primary care clinicians ensure that patients get the right care, in the right setting, by the most appropriate practitioner, and in a manner consistent with the patient’s desires and values. Data on our health care system increasingly show that areas with higher concentrations of primary care clinicians have lower cost, higher quality health care. But we don’t need data to confirm what each of us know already: the incredible value of being cared for by someone who knows us well and understands both our health issues and our personal values. Key stakeholders – employers, legislators, and patients – are increasingly recognizing the value of primary care.

What is revitalized primary care?

Primary care that achieves the "quadruple aim" is what we consider revitalized. The quadruple calls for providing better health care, enhancing the patient experience, lowering health care costs and improving the work life of health care clinicians and staff members.You can learn more about the quadruple aim here.


What is the primary care crisis?

For some time, demand for primary care services has been rising just as the supply of available clinicians shrinks and fewer trainees choose to enter the field. What’s more, many practices are still using antiquated systems of care delivery. Patients are having a hard time seeing their regular clinicians or finding new ones. When they do secure a visit, it is often rushed, leaving patients feeling dissatisfied. As a result, quality of care is suffering: large surveys of physicians’ practices show that for some medical conditions, up to 50% of patients are not receiving recommended evidence-based care. Fortunately, individuals and organizations across the country are engaged in exciting efforts to overcome these challenges. Primary Care Progress is working to help these primary care pioneers connect with each other, and with you!

Learn about some of the solutions in clinical innovation, education reform and advocacy.

What is the Primary Care Crisis?


Our country is experiencing a primary care crisis. Sixty million Americans lack adequate access to primary care at the same time that medical schools are producing fewer primary care physicians. It’s never been more urgent for our country to show a commitment to primary care. Watch and learn about the crisis and what you can do.

Visualizing the Shortage

The following resources come from The Robert Graham Center.

The Primary Care Physician Mapper illustrates the distribution of primary care physicians by state, county, or census tracts in metropolitan areas.

Family Medicine Residency Footprint: Maps out the “footprint” of family medicine residency programs around the country. Breaks down both number and percent of graduates practicing in rural areas and in Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas.

Med School MapperEnter a state or medical school and map will visualize the percent of graduates practicing in rural areas as well as regions where the graduates chose to practice.

Primary Care HPSA MapPrimary Care Health Professional Shortage Area Maps represent counties with physician to population ratio of less than 1 to 3500.  Searchable by state.

Primary Care Physicians By StateQuick reference (pdf) of primary care physicians by state.  Breaks down the number of primary care physicians and the percent of total primary care physicians by state in the country.

State Workforce ProjectionsProjects Primary Care Physicians Workforce needs for each state. Estimates physician need by 2030 due to increased demands from aging, population growth and increasingly insured populations.


Learn More About the Primary Care Crisis

First Teach No Harm - by Philip Longman in Washington Monthly, July/August 2013

Primary Care: Our First Line of Defense - The Commonwealth Fund, June 12, 2013

Projecting the Supply and Demand for Primary Care Practitioners Through 2020 - Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Health Professions, November 2013

Projecting US Primary Care Physician Workforce Needs: 2010-2025 - Annals of Family Medicine, December 2012

Is Primary Care the New Black?

Read a new feature on Match Day trends by Sonya Collins, editor of PCP's Progress Notes

The Primary Care Crisis:
An Infographic

(click on the image to enlarge)


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