The Evolution of Primary Care: Part 3

(This is the continuation of a prior post on how non-physician health care providers are changing primary care in the United States and Part 3 in a series on the evolution of primary care. For the first post click here.)

Another example of non-physician-led primary care can be found in Philadelphia at the Family Practice and Counseling Network (FPCN). Rather than physicians, FPCN relies entirely on nurse practitioners (NPs) to provide a full slate of primary care services. FPCN also offers dental, prenatal, gynecological and behavioral health care. The network of care centers increases access to primary health care services by targeting low-income populations and offering outreach services such as van shuttles. Along with keeping prices down by utilizing "nurse-managed" care, the FPCN actively pursues federal and local donations to subsidize patient care. Like MinuteClinics (described in Part 2) the FPCN offers cheap, convenient primary care from non-physician health care providers. These innovative providers are models for other health care centers throughout the U.S. and are therefore leading the way in the evolution of primary care.

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Today, primary care is provided in a clinic by a physician. The primary care of tomorrow will look different. Rather than a clinic, you might receive most of your routine health care at a retail store like CVS or WalMart. Instead of a doctor, your health care might be provided by a PA or NP. What do you think of this shift toward non-physician providers and non-clinical care settings? Add your comments below and stay tuned for later columns in this series on the evolution of primary care in America.

For more on Philadelphia's Family Practice and Counseling Network (FPCN), check out the article titled, "Family Practice and Counseling Network: A Nurse-led Social Innovation ensuring access to Primary Care" in the October 2009 edition of the Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal.

Photo credit: Ano Lobb