Revisiting the Time Needed to Provide Adult Primary Care

J Gen Intern Med. 2023 Jan;38(1):147-155. doi: 10.1007/s11606-022-07707-x. Epub 2022 Jul 1.


Background: Many patients do not receive guideline-recommended preventive, chronic disease, and acute care. One potential explanation is insufficient time for primary care providers (PCPs) to provide care.

Objective: To quantify the time needed to provide 2020 preventive care, chronic disease care, and acute care for a nationally representative adult patient panel by a PCP alone, and by a PCP as part of a team-based care model.

Design: Simulation study applying preventive and chronic disease care guidelines to hypothetical patient panels.

Participants: Hypothetical panels of 2500 patients, representative of the adult US population based on the 2017-2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Main measures: The mean time required for a PCP to provide guideline-recommended preventive, chronic disease and acute care to the hypothetical patient panels. Estimates were also calculated for visit documentation time and electronic inbox management time. Times were re-estimated in the setting of team-based care.

Key results: PCPs were estimated to require 26.7 h/day, comprising of 14.1 h/day for preventive care, 7.2 h/day for chronic disease care, 2.2 h/day for acute care, and 3.2 h/day for documentation and inbox management. With team-based care, PCPs were estimated to require 9.3 h per day (2.0 h/day for preventive care and 3.6 h/day for chronic disease care, 1.1 h/day for acute care, and 2.6 h/day for documentation and inbox management).

Conclusions: PCPs do not have enough time to provide the guideline-recommended primary care. With team-based care the time requirements would decrease by over half, but still be excessive.

Keywords: Chronic disease care; Population health; Preventive care; Primary care; Team-based care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Documentation*
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Primary Health Care*