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Coordinating Care Puts Burden on Primary Care Physicians

Coordination may be particularly challenging in the fee-for-service Medicare program

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Primary care physicians face a logistical challenge in coordinating care for primary and non-primary patients because they must interact with large numbers of other physicians and practices, according to a report published in the Feb. 17 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Hoangmai H. Pham, M.D., of the Center for Studying Health System Change in Washington, D.C., and colleagues analyzed survey data from 2,284 primary care physicians and claims for the Medicare beneficiaries they cared for in 2005.

The researchers found that the average physician needed to coordinate care with 229 other physicians working in 117 different practices. They also estimated that the average physician must coordinate care with 99 other physicians in 53 different practices for every 100 Medicare patients they treat.

"Care coordination may improve health outcomes and reduce costs, especially for patients with multiple chronic conditions," the authors write. "But coordination may be particularly challenging in the fee-for-service Medicare program, which lacks defined provider networks, providers designated to guide referrals, systems to track referrals, and explicit incentives to coordinate care."

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