International Survey: Major Shortcomings in U.S. Primary Care Capacity

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<p>For most people, the primary care doctor is their first point of contact with the health care system, as well as their main source of much preventive and essential care. But a new Commonwealth Fund/Harris Interactive survey, conducted in the United States and six other countries, finds that U.S. primary care physicians lack the tools and support needed to provide patients with the best care possible.<br><br>As reported today in a <a href="/cnlib/pub/enews_clickthrough.htm?enews_item_id=25111&return_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ecmwf%2Eorg%2Fpublications%2Fpublications%5Fshow%2Ehtm%3Fdoc%5Fid%3D419208%26%23doc419208"><em>Health Affairs</em> Web Exclusive,</a> U.S. primary care doctors are less likely than their counterparts in Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom to be able to offer patients access to care outside regular office hours. U.S. doctors are also among the least likely to have systems in place that alert them to potentially harmful drug interactions.<br><br>In addition, the survey revealed that financial incentives for improving patient care are less available to U.S. primary care physicians than they are to doctors in those other countries. The U.S. also had the highest percentage of physicians who reported their patients have difficulty paying for their health care.<br><br>"The data show that U.S. primary care doctors find it difficult or impossible to perform tasks that doctors in other countries find easy," says Fund senior vice president Cathy Schoen, the article's lead author. "They also practice without basic decision supports that could improve health outcomes and reduce costs."</p>