Nearly 1 in 3 patients don’t see primary care doc

Nearly 30% of all patients who received medical services between 2016 and 2022 did not see a primary care physician, a FAIR Health analysis provided first to Axios shows.

Why it matters: Primary care providers are supposed to manage patients’ day-to-day health needs and provide preventative care, and evidence shows it can drive down costs and improve outcomes. But many people are clearly getting their care elsewhere — if they’re getting it at all.

The big picture: The report points to the geographic distribution of primary care providers around the country and regional gaps that can lead to worse outcomes.

  • “Increasing the density of primary care providers in an area improves the detection and diagnosis of disease and reduces health disparities,” the report’s authors say, pointing to a study that correlated a higher density of providers compared to patients with increased life expectancy.
  • For instance, Rochester, Minnesota — home to Mayo Clinic — had about 115 people for each primary care practice location, the lowest ratio in the country.
  • On the other extreme, Zapata, Texas, on the southern border had about 2,760 per provider.

Be smart: Non-physicians made up a large swath of the primary care workforce, a trend that will likely continue as states eye changes to scope of practice rules and provider models evolve.

  • Nurse practitioners made up the greatest number of primary care providers (27%), followed by family medicine physicians (20%) and internal medicine physicians (18%) and physicians assistants (15%).