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Supplement: The Future of Primary Care |

Primary Care at a Crossroads

Jonathan Showstack, PhD, MPH; Arlyss Anderson Rothman, PhD, MHS, FNP; and Susan Hassmiller, PhD, RN
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

From the University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California; and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, New Jersey.

Grant Support: By grant 039940 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Requests for Single Reprints: Jonathan Showstack, PhD, MPH, University of California, San Francisco, 3333 California Street, Suite 265, San Francisco, CA 94118-1944.

Current Author Addresses: Drs. Showstack and Anderson Rothman: University of California, San Francisco, 3333 California Street, Suite 265, San Francisco, CA 94118-1944.

Dr. Hassmiller: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Route 1 and College Road East, Princeton, NJ 08543-2316.

Ann Intern Med. 2003;138(3):242-243. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-138-3-200302040-00031
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The term “primary care” means different things to different people. Many of us have championed primary care because of its theoretical and practical contributions to the health of individuals and populations. Despite the rise of “scientific medicine” and specialization, the concept of primary care has achieved an important place in the delivery of health services. Over the past century, primary care has developed from the idea of a family doctor who tended to the medical, and at times the emotional and social, needs of his patients to a new and much richer and idealized concept that includes prevention, continuity of care, health maintenance, and death with dignity, among others. The renaissance of primary care that began in the 1970s, however, has begun to wane. Today several organizational, economic, and social forces are presenting new challenges to primary care. How those challenges are addressed will largely determine the future of primary care and primary care's role in addressing the health needs of our population.

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