Primary care research could build trust in health system, relieve physician burnout

Data from patients, technology would add to “foundation for all other health care.”

The time is right for research that fuels a transformation in primary care with better outcomes for patients and greater fulfillment for physicians across the United States.

Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and influential reports have set the stage for primary care to thrive in the next decade, said authors Arlene S. Bierman, MD, MS, Sebastian T. Tong, MD, PMH, and Robert J. McNellis, MPH, PA. They published the special report “Realizing the Dream: The Future of Primary Care Research,” in The Annals of Family Medicine.

Making that happen “will require wise investments in primary care research,” the report said.

“Newly generated evidence needs to be rapidly incorporated into the design of the delivery system, clinical care, and community interventions,” the authors said. “Primary care research can provide the evidence to help stem the twin epidemics of clinician burnout and lack of trust in the health system.

Data sources

A number of resources already exist to guide future research, including the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The authors credited the agency for “a pivotal role” supporting research for primary care, but noted they did not proffer an official position of AHRQ or the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

Patients will be involved as partners to identify research priorities, “outcomes to measure and ways to redesign care.”

Technology must be part of the process, along with data on processes and outcomes harnessed through electronic health records, patient registries and health information exchanges, the authors said.

Center on primary care

Describing a vision of the future, the authors identified seven core attributes

Those include “primary care centeredness,” or recognizing “primary care is the foundation for all other health care.” All people should have access to comprehensive, coordinated and high quality care, they said.

The other attributes are:

  • Person and family centeredness, caring for patients “in the context of their lived family, social and community experiences.”
  • Community centeredness, promoting health of communities by engaging community organizations with a shared mission.
  • Advancing health equity, eliminating structural inequities in access, quality and outcomes of care.
  • Digital health solutions, integrating health information technology to support primary care.
  • Aligning payment, allocating resources to support primary care.
  • Workforce development, creating teams with members improving patient care while reducing individual workloads and burnout.