Having a Family Doctor is Good for Your Health

It’s Family Medicine Week in Michigan (February 24 - March 2) as proclaimed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, in recognition of the whole-person, patient-centered, cost-effective care Family Physicians provide to patients of all ages—from birth through end of life.

Better Health, Better Care, Lower Costs

Research shows that a strong primary care system centered on an ongoing patient-physician relationship leads to the best health outcomes, higher patient satisfaction, fewer hospitalizations, and reduced healthcare costs:

  • As many as 127,617 deaths per year in the U.S. could be averted through an increase in the number of primary care physicians.
  • States with higher ratios of primary care physicians to population have lower smoking rates and less obesity.
  • An increase of 1 primary care physician per 10,000 people can decrease outpatient visits by 5%, inpatient admissions by 5.5%, emergency room visits by 10.9%, and surgeries by 7.2%.
  • Communities that have an adequate supply of primary care physicians and other allied healthcare professionals have lower infant mortality, higher birth weights, and immunization rates at or above national standards despite social disparities.
  • U.S. adults who have a primary care physician have 33% lower health care costs.
  • A recent Oregon study found that for every $1 invested in primary care, $13 is saved.

1 in 5 Office Visits Are to a Family Physician

More Michiganders depend on Family Physicians than any other medical specialty for their primary and preventive healthcare needs, including well-child checks, annual wellness exams, immunizations, care for acute conditions like the flu and colds, and help managing chronic illnesses such as asthma and diabetes. Plus, Family Doctors coordinate care when referrals to other specialists are necessary, and they connect patients to local resources, such as transportation, heating, and food assistance, support groups, and other social services.

More Family Physicians are Needed

In 2018, there were nearly 3,000 Family Physicians in Michigan, comprising 43% of the state’s healthcare workforce—but more are needed. Due to an aging, growing, and increasingly insured population, the Robert Graham Center projects Michigan will be 862 primary care physicians short by 2030. Therefore, a 12% increase in the number of primary care physicians—including Family Physicians—practicing in the state is needed.

MAFP encourages state and federal lawmakers to bolster the primary care workforce pipeline by:

  • Reforming reimbursement to reduce the income disparity between primary care physicians and other specialists, and establishing policies and incentives that help alleviate medical school loan debt, to make the specialty of Family Medicine more attractive to aspiring physicians
  • Increasing funding for and reforming the Michigan State Loan Repayment Program to encourage a high participation rate and maximize resources in the geographic areas of most need
  • Reforming and increasing funding for graduate medical education
  • Prioritizing funding for primary care training in community-based settings and underserved areas, such as for the Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program and MiDOCS—a new state-funded program established to increase the number of medical residencies in the state and doctors practicing in rural and underserved areas

These are among the issues Family Medicine advocates will discuss with their state legislators during Michigan Family Medicine Advocacy Day on Tuesday, February 26, in downtown Lansing.