The Importance of Primary Care

Primary care is essential to having a healthy family, healthy community, and a healthy society. You may know a primary care doctor, like your Family Medicine doctor, General Internist, Pediatrician, or Gynecologist. These are the doctors that partner with you to create better health outcomes. 

There's been a great deal of research conducted about the benefits of having community doctors or primary care doctors. In an article from the American Academy of Family Physicians, it is noted that "an increase of one primary care doctor per 10,000 people has been shown to result in:

  • 5% decrease in outpatient visits
  • 5.5% decrease in inpatient admissions
  • 10.9% decrease in ER visits
  • 7.2% decrease in surgeries"

Further, counties with more primary care doctors have lower healthcare costs and better mortality rates. MLive.com wrote a nice piece about the importance of primary care doctors and they even have a tool so that you can evaluate how many primary care docs are in your community. In Washtenaw County, there's a primary care doctor for every 598 residents. In Cass County, there's a primary care doctor for every 7,463 residents. 

Washtenaw County is likely saturated with primary care doctors because it encompasses Ann Arbor and the U of M Health System. From the MLive.com article, "The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration has calculated that Michigan's supply of primary care physicians meet 63.3 percent of the population need." That means about 63% of the state is serviced with enough primary care providers. 

Unfortunately, Detroit itself is underserved. There are roughly 50 - 100 primary care doctors in Detroit for roughly 680,000 residents. That's roughly 1 doctor for every 6,000 - 12,000 residents in the City of Detroit. 

If you were to look at the data for Wayne County, which includes Detroit, Dearborn, Inkster, the Grosse Pointes, etc..., you would see that there's 1 doctor for every 1,515 people, which is a relatively equitable ratio. However, when you look closer at the distribution of physicians in Wayne County, you will see that several are concentrated in wealthier suburbs like Grosse Pointe and Dearborn. This leaves places like Detroit and Inkster underserved. 

The black dots on this map indicate the locations of licensed physicians. While there are a good number of doctor's offices in Wayne County, the distribution of these offices is skewed with a higher concentration of offices in Dearborn and Grosse Pointe than in the City of Detroit itself. This image was a part of a larger presentation given by former Detroit Health Department Director and now Candidate for Governor of Michigan, Abdul El-Sayed. In case you were wondering, the yellow stars indicate pop-up clinics planned by the City of Detroit Health Department to distribute contraceptives. 

The black dots on this map indicate the locations of licensed physicians. While there are a good number of doctor's offices in Wayne County, the distribution of these offices is skewed with a higher concentration of offices in Dearborn and Grosse Pointe than in the City of Detroit itself. This image was a part of a larger presentation given by former Detroit Health Department Director and now Candidate for Governor of Michigan, Abdul El-Sayed. In case you were wondering, the yellow stars indicate pop-up clinics planned by the City of Detroit Health Department to distribute contraceptives. 

One of the several reasons why I've started Plum Health in Detroit is to address the health disparities and access to care issues that are currently facing the City. Because we provide our services, medications, labs, and imaging at such an affordable price, we are able to care for people of all socio-economic strata. This allows us to aspire to a more just and equitable health care system, and it starts with excellent primary care. 

Finally, I want to inspire high school students, college students, medical students at Wayne State University, and current Family Medicine residents to practice Family Medicine in a Direct Primary Care practice or traditional fee-for-service model in the City. We need excellent primary care doctors for our community to be healthier and to address the health disparities in our city. 

Yours in Good Health,

- Paul Thomas, MD

Primary care is essential to having a healthy community and a healthy society. In this episode, we explore the importance of having a primary care doctor who can help you stay healthy! You can find out more about Plum Health at http://www.plumhealthdpc.com/