More primary care physicians lead to increase in life expectancy
Primary care physicians are your first point of contact for any health problems. They are typically responsible for prevention, diagnosis, management, and treatment of a wide array of conditions. Previous examination of large-area statistics (international and state level) have found that higher availability of primary care services correlated with lower all-cause and cause-specific mortality. However, these correlations did not account for healthcare and socioeconomic variables. Researchers sought to address these uncertainties so that they can understand if efforts to increase primary care physician supply is warranted and has the potential to produce measurable results.
The researchers also found that for every 10 primary care physicians per 100,000 people was associated with 51.5-day increase in life expectancy during 2005-2015. However, an increase of 10 specialists per 100,000 population corresponded to only 19.2-day increase in life expectancy.
Researchers investigated primary care physician supply changes across US counties from 2005-2015 and looked at associations between such changes and population mortality. They evaluated data from 3142 US counties, 7144 primary care service areas, and 306 hospital referral regions to understand changes in primary care physician supply and associations with life expectancy and cause-specific mortality. The researchers adjusted for health care, demographic, socioeconomic, and behavioural factors.
The number of primary care physicians increased from 196,014 physicians in 2005 to 204,419 in 2015. However, due to the disproportionate losses of primary care physicians in some counties and overall population increases, the mean density of primary care physicians to population size decreased from 46.6 per 100,000 population to 41.4 per 100 000 population. Greater losses were seen in rural areas. The researchers also found that for every 10 primary care physicians per 100,000 people was associated with 51.5-day increase in life expectancy during 2005-2015. However, an increase of 10 specialists per 100,000 population corresponded to only 19.2-day increase in life expectancy. A total of 10 additional primary care physicians per 100,000 population also correlated to reduced cardiovascular, cancer, and respiratory mortality by 0.9 per cent to 1.4 per cent.
The study shows that primary care physicians are important for your health and that greater supply of primary care doctors are associated with lower mortality. This has important implications for programs and policies that aim to increase primary care physician supply.
Source: JAMA Intern Med
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