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Dartmouth Links Primary Care Quality to Actions, Not Numbers of Doctors

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, May 27, 2011

They said if all areas of the country had a number of primary care physicians practicing in ambulatory care settings as in the highest quintile "This might lead to 48,398 fewer deaths and 436,002 fewer (avoidable) hospitalizations, but would cost $13.8 billion more in total Medicare program spending. The higher spending is from more spending in clinician spending (Part B, $36.4 million more) that is more than the reduction from lower spending in acute care facilities."

The amount of spending in areas with more physicians may reflect more care in outpatient settings provided by clinicians, they wrote.

"Our study points to the weak connection of the numbers of those physicians trained in primary care, and often counted as primary care physicians for planning and research, with those physicians actually delivering ambulatory primary care services," the researchers wrote.

They said this suggests that having more primary care providers "does not always lead to having more primary care services, such as more office visits provided to Medicare beneficiaries."

Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

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