What is a Primary Care Association?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A primary care association refers to groups primary care doctors that practice together to serve basic medical needs for all ages, or to groups of clinics in a defined geographic location that offer care for people who are uninsured or who lack means to pay for care. The two definitions are different and address some of the diverse ways that doctors or medical groups associate to improve care delivery to patients. The first definition of primary care association is more common, but the latter definition is used with great regularity.

A primary care association might make it much easier for a woman to choose a female doctor for obstetrical or gynecological care.
A primary care association might make it much easier for a woman to choose a female doctor for obstetrical or gynecological care.

When doctors practice together and form an association, it can have numerous benefits for the physicians and patients. Having a larger group treat a number of patients makes it easier for doctors to take breaks and substitute for each other, so that reasonable schedules result. Moreover, large associations may be able to offer extra benefits to patients like weekend clinics that help people avoid things like having to visit emergency rooms for minor conditions.

There are so many aspects of primary care. Doctors in this field take care of children and adults and routinely perform things like obstetrics and gynecology. A large association of doctors has the distinct advantage of offering prospective patients a great deal of selection in choosing a primary care doctor.

For example, some women feel more comfortable having a female doctor for obstetrical or gynecological care, and this choice may be much more available in a primary care association. This benefits the association because it keeps the patient from going outside the practice for obstetrical care, and it may also be of great use to the patient. Other aspects of a primary care association that can be useful include sharing office staff, streamlining billing, and offering a location where all doctors take the same forms of insurance.

The downside of a large primary care association is that patients may seldom see the doctor they’ve actually chosen. A huge practice of doctors may seem impersonal and there may be little form of review between physicians about patients being treated. Some people prefer a primary care doctor who they will almost always see when they need medical care, or they prefer associations that are relatively small.

A primary care association that is a collection of clinics is quite distinct from primary care doctor groups. These associations are usually looser and more meant as ways for charitable clinics to share information and advocate for common goals. They can also be a means of inspiring the growth of additional clinics in underserved areas and they may share things like grantwriting or other forms of fundraising to help keep clinics afloat. Many of these associations exist on a regional level, but some may serve a larger area, and each association can have slightly different goals. Most aim to help people with little access to medical care by supporting clinics that serve them.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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