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The breadth of primary care: a systematic literature review of its core dimensions

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      Abstract

      Background

      Even though there is general agreement that primary care is the linchpin of effective health care delivery, to date no efforts have been made to systematically review the scientific evidence supporting this supposition. The aim of this study was to examine the breadth of primary care by identifying its core dimensions and to assess the evidence for their interrelations and their relevance to outcomes at (primary) health system level.

      Methods

      A systematic review of the primary care literature was carried out, restricted to English language journals reporting original research or systematic reviews. Studies published between 2003 and July 2008 were searched in MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane Library, CINAHL, King's Fund Database, IDEAS Database, and EconLit.

      Results

      Eighty-five studies were identified. This review was able to provide insight in the complexity of primary care as a multidimensional system, by identifying ten core dimensions that constitute a primary care system. The structure of a primary care system consists of three dimensions: 1. governance; 2. economic conditions; and 3. workforce development. The primary care process is determined by four dimensions: 4. access; 5. continuity of care; 6. coordination of care; and 7. comprehensiveness of care. The outcome of a primary care system includes three dimensions: 8. quality of care; 9. efficiency care; and 10. equity in health. There is a considerable evidence base showing that primary care contributes through its dimensions to overall health system performance and health.

      Conclusions

      A primary care system can be defined and approached as a multidimensional system contributing to overall health system performance and health.

      Related collections

      Most cited references 82

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      Contribution of primary care to health systems and health.

      Evidence of the health-promoting influence of primary care has been accumulating ever since researchers have been able to distinguish primary care from other aspects of the health services delivery system. This evidence shows that primary care helps prevent illness and death, regardless of whether the care is characterized by supply of primary care physicians, a relationship with a source of primary care, or the receipt of important features of primary care. The evidence also shows that primary care (in contrast to specialty care) is associated with a more equitable distribution of health in populations, a finding that holds in both cross-national and within-national studies. The means by which primary care improves health have been identified, thus suggesting ways to improve overall health and reduce differences in health across major population subgroups.
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        What fosters or prevents interprofessional teamworking in primary and community care? A literature review.

        The increase in prevalence of long-term conditions in Western societies, with the subsequent need for non-acute quality patient healthcare, has brought the issue of collaboration between health professionals to the fore. Within primary care, it has been suggested that multidisciplinary teamworking is essential to develop an integrated approach to promoting and maintaining the health of the population whilst improving service effectiveness. Although it is becoming widely accepted that no single discipline can provide complete care for patients with a long-term condition, in practice, interprofessional working is not always achieved. This review aimed to explore the factors that inhibit or facilitate interprofessional teamworking in primary and community care settings, in order to inform development of multidisciplinary working at the turn of the century. A comprehensive search of the literature was undertaken using a variety of approaches to identify appropriate literature for inclusion in the study. The selected articles used both qualitative and quantitative research methods. Following a thematic analysis of the literature, two main themes emerged that had an impact on interprofessional teamworking: team structure and team processes. Within these two themes, six categories were identified: team premises; team size and composition; organisational support; team meetings; clear goals and objectives; and audit. The complex nature of interprofessional teamworking in primary care meant that despite teamwork being an efficient and productive way of achieving goals and results, several barriers exist that hinder its potential from becoming fully exploited; implications and recommendations for practice are discussed. These findings can inform development of current best practice, although further research needs to be conducted into multidisciplinary teamworking at both the team and organisation level, to ensure that enhancement and maintenance of teamwork leads to an improved quality of healthcare provision.
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          The contribution of primary care systems to health outcomes within Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, 1970-1998.

          To assess the contribution of primary care systems to a variety of health outcomes in 18 wealthy Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries over three decades. Data were primarily derived from OECD Health Data 2001 and from published literature. The unit of analysis is each of 18 wealthy OECD countries from 1970 to 1998 (total n = 504). Pooled, cross-sectional, time-series analysis of secondary data using fixed effects regression. Secondary analysis of public-use datasets. Primary care system characteristics were assessed using a common set of indicators derived from secondary datasets, published literature, technical documents, and consultation with in-country experts. The strength of a country's primary care system was negatively associated with (a) all-cause mortality, (b) all-cause premature mortality, and (c) cause-specific premature mortality from asthma and bronchitis, emphysema and pneumonia, cardiovascular disease, and heart disease (p<0.05 in fixed effects, multivariate regression analyses). This relationship was significant, albeit reduced in magnitude, even while controlling for macro-level (GDP per capita, total physicians per one thousand population, percent of elderly) and micro-level (average number of ambulatory care visits, per capita income, alcohol and tobacco consumption) determinants of population health. (1) Strong primary care system and practice characteristics such as geographic regulation, longitudinality, coordination, and community orientation were associated with improved population health. (2) Despite health reform efforts, few OECD countries have improved essential features of their primary care systems as assessed by the scale used here. (3) The proposed scale can also be used to monitor health reform efforts intended to improve primary care.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]NIVEL-Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research, Otterstraat 114-118, 3500 BN Utrecht, the Netherlands
            [2 ]ScHARR-School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Regent Court, 30 Regent Street, Sheffield, S1 4DA, UK
            [3 ]Department of Human Geography, Department of Sociology, University of Utrecht, PO Box 80140, 3508 TC Utrecht, The Netherlands
            [4 ]Faculty of Health Sciences, Department of International Public Health, University of Maastricht, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands
            Contributors
            Journal
            BMC Health Serv Res
            BMC Health Services Research
            BioMed Central
            1472-6963
            2010
            13 March 2010
            : 10
            : 65
            2848652
            1472-6963-10-65
            20226084
            10.1186/1472-6963-10-65
            Copyright ©2010 Kringos et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

            This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

            Categories
            Research article

            Health & Social care

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