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Primary care reduced hospitalizations even during the pandemic


Japanese study showed that despite the challenges of the pandemic, solid primary care was still key to keeping people out of the hospital

A team of Japanese researchers looked at what role primary care played in reducing hospitalizations during the pandemic. Despite all the barriers to care the pandemic caused, primary care still proved key to reducing hospitalization rates. The report was published in The Annals of Family Medicine.

During the pandemic, primary care physicians had to allocate resources to aid in the triage of patients and treatment and vaccination for COVID-19. Outpatient visits decreased while telemedicine increased during the pandemic. As a result, a decline in preventive services, reduction in diagnosis of chronic diseases, and worsening control of chronic diseases were reported, according to the study.

Researchers surveyed more than 1,200 Japanese patients regarding their primary care visits and if they were hospitalized. Those patients who saw a primary care doctor were less likely to be hospitalized than those who did not. “These findings indicate that the provision of high-quality primary care contributed to decreased total hospitalization, even during a pandemic when there are many barriers to providing usual medical care. Preventing hospitalizations during a pandemic not only avoids deterioration in the health status of the population and reduces health care costs but also reduces inpatient hospital care overload,” the study reads in part.

The results are consistent with pre-pandemic studies that show primary care attributes like accessibility, continuity, coordination, and comprehensiveness, are associated with a reduction in hospitalizations, with continuity of care showing the most impact.

The researchers say the findings support policies that look to strengthen primary care systems.

“For instance, a new consensus report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine emphasized that the United States should prioritize the implementation of high-quality primary care by the government and private sector,” the report reads in part.

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