Improving Primary Care Practice

Primary care is the cornerstone of health care that is effective and efficient and meets the needs of patients, families, and communities. Our primary care system currently has significant—and perhaps unprecedented—opportunities to emphasize quality improvement (QI) and practice redesign in ways that could fundamentally improve health care in the United States. To ensure these efforts are successful, there is a need to build and sustain the ability of primary care practices to engage in QI activities in a continuous and effective way.

Capacity Building

These AHRQ publications describe the need for external infrastructure to help primary care practices develop quality improvement (QI) capacity and describe approaches and supports that could develop and support QI capacity in primary care.

Care Coordination

Care coordination involves deliberately organizing patient care activities and sharing information among all of the participants concerned with a patient's care to achieve safer and more effective care. This means that the patient's needs and preferences are known ahead of time and communicated at the right time to the right people, and that this information is used to provide safe, appropriate, and effective care to the patient.

Clinical-Community Linkages

Clinical-community linkages help to connect health care providers, community organizations, and public health agencies so they can improve patients' access to preventive and chronic care services.

Health Care/System Redesign

Health care/system redesign involves making systematic changes to primary care practices and health systems to improve the quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of patient care.

Health IT Integration

The integration of health information technology (IT) into primary care includes a variety of electronic methods that are used to manage information about people's health and health care, for both individual patients and groups of patients. The use of health IT can improve the quality of care, even as it makes health care more cost effective.

Primary Care Practice-Based Research Networks

Primary care practice-based research networks (PBRNs) are groups of primary care clinicians and practices working together to answer community-based health care questions and translate research findings into practice. PBRNs engage clinicians in quality improvement activities and an evidence-based culture in primary care practice to improve the health of all Americans.

Behavioral and Mental Health

Many studies have demonstrated that high-quality mental and behavioral health care may often be delivered in primary care settings. Because mental health, behavioral health, and substance use disorders are among the most common conditions seen in primary care settings and frequently occur with other medical problems, primary care providers are often in the best position to identify, diagnose, and treat them. A primary care practice will not reach its full potential without adequately addressing patients' mental health needs.

Self-Management Support

Self-management support is an important part of patient-centered care and care coordination in primary care settings. AHRQ’s Prevention and Chronic Care program has developed a variety of resources to help primary clinicians and teams learn about and implement self-management support.