Medical Generalists Save Money, Study Says
A recent study, sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians and Robert Graham Center, finds that physicians who provide more varied care do a better job at keeping patients out the hospital, and at reducing healthcare expenditures.
“More Comprehensive Care Among Family Physicians is Associated with Lower Costs and Fewer Hospitalizations,” published in the Annals of Family Medicine, concludes:
Increasing family physician comprehensiveness of care, especially as measured by claims measures, is associated with decreasing Medicare costs and hospitalizations. Payment and practice policies that enhance primary care comprehensiveness may help “bend the cost curve.”
Or, put another way: Primary care physicians who refer patients to specialists, less often, save money; however, current financial incentives benefit specialization (approximately 80 percent of U.S physicians are now specialists, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians) and quick patient turnover, rather than cost savings or patient outcomes.
Significantly, the study did not measure quality of care. As reported by Anders Kelto for NPR, “The researchers weren’t able to track patient outcomes or collect data on patient experiences. So it’s possible that the care received from primary care doctors was inferior, and that the cost savings weren’t worth it.”