Whether it is a wellness visit, an acute virus or managing a long-term health issue, primary care doctors help patients on their medical journeys.
However, primary care accounts for less than 5% of national health expenditures, significantly less than in European countries and Canada. Additionally, only 1% of National Institutes of Health funding goes to primary care-related research. While this area of medicine is a critical part of health care, it remains underfunded and in some cases undervalued. Primary care providers also earn less than any other specialty despite the fact that they provide a wider range of services to a much larger population.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the lead federal agency charged with improving health care safety and quality for all residents, is working to help promote the importance of primary care to include research investments and findings. Recently, the National Center for Excellence in Primary Care Research (NCEPCR) was formalized by the agency including hiring its first director and receiving federal funding.
NCEPCR’s focus is on improving the quality and safety of care by providing practical tools, evidence and other resources for those in the primary care field such as researchers, clinicians, evaluators, policymakers, quality improvement experts and others.
Joining with global consulting and research firm Abt Associates and their partners last year, the organizations will disseminate NCEPCR’s research findings and engage stakeholders to support their mission. The initial funding is for two years with the potential to go up to five years.
Aimee Eden, NCEPCR’s deputy director, notes there are three main goals behind this partnership. They hope to receive input and/or engage primary care stakeholders to be able to enhance AHRQ’s dissemination of investments of primary care research and implementation. It takes many years for evidence to make it into practice so their goal is to speed up the process and have stakeholders voices to guide best practices.
Another outcome they are looking for is creating reports to summarize and synthesize AHRQ”S investments in primary care research over the past few years. “It is a really nice way to see a synthesized perspective of all the work in the area that is being funded and created to see where the investment is going,” Eden said.
The last goal is to increase the awareness of NCEPCR, especially to primary care stakeholders, but also to the broader public as well in order to grow and support the field.
“There is a really small amount of primary care specific research being done,” Eden said. “You need the research to build the evidence to be able to improve primary care delivery and patient experience and all those things. Our hope is that the work will help disseminate the research that can then impact clinicians, their practices, primary care teams and then the experiences of patients receiving primary care and their health outcome. That is patients of all ages and any range of conditions from those (seeking) simple well visits all the way up to people who need to see specialists.”