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Ann Fam Med. 2012 Jan-Feb;10(1):34-41. doi: 10.1370/afm.1314.

Primary care attributes and mortality: a national person-level study.

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  • 1Department of Family and Community Medicine, Center for Healthcare Policy and Research, University of California Davis School of Medicine, Sacramento, California 95817, USA. afjerant@ucdavis.edu



Research demonstrates an association between the geographic concentration of primary care clinicians and mortality in the area, but there is limited evidence of a mortality benefit of primary care at the individual patient level. We examined whether patient-reported access to selected primary care attributes, including some emphasized in the medical home literature, is associated with lower individual mortality risk.


We analyzed data from 2000-2005 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey respondents aged 18 to 90 years (N = 52,241), linked to the National Death Index through 2006. A score was constructed from 5 yes/no items assessing whether the respondent's usual source of care had 3 attributes: comprehensiveness, patient-centeredness, and enhanced access. Scores ranged from 0 to 1 (higher scores = more attributes). We examined the association between the primary care attributes score and mortality during up to 6 years of follow-up using Cox survival analysis, adjusted for social, demographic, and health-related characteristics.


Racial/ethnic minorities, poorer and less educated persons, individuals without private insurance, healthier persons, and residents of regions other than the Northeast reported less access to primary care attributes than others. The primary care attributes score was inversely associated with mortality (adjusted hazard ratio = 0.79; 95% confidence interval, 0.64-0.98; P = .03); supplementary analyses showed mortality decreased linearly with increasing score.


Greater reported patient access to selected primary care attributes was associated with lower mortality. The findings support the current interest in ensuring that patients have access to a medical home encompassing these attributes.

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