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Extending Access to Primary Care Cuts Costs 10%

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, October 15, 2012

There is a lot of discussion around expanding access to primary care. If physicians were available to patients beyond traditional business hours, overall healthcare costs would drop, data suggests.

Along that thread, physicians have started to make themselves more available to patients via text messaging and email, but what about increasing the opportunities for more face-to-face time?  Can physicians afford to do that? Can they afford not to?

"Access to care isn't just answering patients on email," says Patricia Czapp, MD, Medical Director of the Primary Care Division of Anne Arundel Physician Group in Maryland. Since each of the physician group's 10 practices started offering extended hours over a year ago, Czapp says they have seen an increase in patient volume, satisfaction, and business.

This month, a report in The Annals of Family Medicine provides evidence that increasing access to care through the extension of physician practice hours into the evenings and weekends decreased total healthcare cost expenditures by over 10 percent.

Researchers examined the association between reported access to extended office hours, healthcare expenditures, and mortality by surveying a patient pool of 54,624 patients between 2000 and 2007.

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