Primary care visits increase utilization of evidence-based preventative health measures

BMC Fam Pract. 2020 Jul 28;21(1):151. doi: 10.1186/s12875-020-01216-8.

Abstract

Background: Primary care visits can serve many purposes and potentially influence health behaviors. Although previous studies suggest that increasing primary care provider numbers may be beneficial, the mechanism responsible for the association is unclear, and have not linked primary care access to specific preventative interventions. We investigated the association between the number of times patients accessed their primary care provider team and the likelihood they received selected preventative health interventions.

Methods: Patients with complete data sets from Sanford Health were categorized based on the number of primary care visits they received in a specified time period and the preventative health interventions they received. Patient characteristics were used in a propensity analysis to control for variables. Relative risks and 95% confidence intervals were calculated to estimate the likelihood of obtaining preventative measures based on number of primary care visits compared with patients who had no primary care visits during the specified time period.

Results: The likelihood of a patient receiving three specified preventative interventions was increased by 127% for vaccination, 122% for colonoscopy, and 75% for mammography if the patient had ≥ 1 primary care visit per year. More primary care visits correlated with increasing frequency of vaccinations, but increased primary care visits beyond one did not correlate with increasing frequency of mammography or colonoscopy.

Conclusions: One or more primary care visits per year is associated with increased likelihood of specific evidence-based preventative care interventions that improve longitudinal health outcomes and decrease healthcare costs. Increasing efforts to track and increase the number of primary care visits by clinics and health systems may improve patient compliance with select preventative measures.

Keywords: Colonoscopy; Mammography; Primary care; Vaccination; Wellness visits.