This article discusses the essential role of primary care within the United States from a systems view. Three general functions of the primary care system are discussed including triage of undifferentiated symptoms, improving the efficiency and appropriateness of specialty care and reducing socioeconomic and geographic disparities. The functions are discussed at the patient-level, system-level and population-wide perspective.
- Primary care can serve as a cost efficient prevention mechanism that impacts large sections of the general population.
- Evidence from other countries suggests that a properly functioning primary care system reduces health system expenditures and improves health outcomes.
- The authors recommend that reforms to the U.S. primary care system should include ensuring universal access and improving overall level of quality through leadership, training and infrastructure support.