DEFINITION OF PRIMARY CARE

Primary care is the provision of integrated, accessible health care services by clinicians who are accountable for addressing a large majority of personal health care needs, developing a sustained partnership with patients, and practicing in the context of family and community.

An explanation of each term or phrase in italics follows. Page numbers indicate the beginning of the text discussion.

Integrated is intended in this report to encompass the provision of comprehensive, coordinated, and continuous services that provide a seamless process of care. Integration combines events and information about events occurring in disparate settings and levels of care and over time, preferably throughout the life span (see p. 22).

Comprehensive. Comprehensive care addresses any health problem at any given stage of a patient's life cycle (see p. 22).

Coordinated. Coordination ensures the provision of a combination of health services and information that meets a patient's needs. It also refers to the connection between, or the rational ordering of, those services, including the resources of the community (see p. 25).

Continuous. Continuity is a characteristic that refers to care over time by a single individual or team of health care professionals (“clinician continuity”) and to effective and timely communication of health information (events, risks, advice, and patient preferences) (“record continuity”) (see p. 27).

Accessible refers to the ease with which a patient can initiate an interaction for any health problem with a clinician (e.g., by phone or at a treatment location) and includes efforts to eliminate barriers such as those posed by geography, administrative hurdles, financing, culture, and language (see p. 28).

Health care services refers to an array of services that are performed by health care professionals or under their direction, for the purpose of promoting, maintaining, or restoring health (Last, 1988). The term refers to all settings of care (such as hospitals, nursing homes, physicians ' offices, intermediate care facilities, schools, and homes) (see p. 21).

Clinician means an individual who uses a recognized scientific knowledge base and has the authority to direct the delivery of personal health services to patients (see p. 20).



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