1 in 5 Americans Have No Regular Physician

Pharmacists are needed to compensate for critical gaps in patient care, based on the results of a new report.

According to a statistical brief released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), approximately 60 million individuals—or 1 in 5 Americans—have no regular source of medical care.

The data show that in 2007, two thirds (63%) of these patients reported never or rarely getting sick as their main reason for not having a usual source of care. The second most common reason was cost; 14% of those without a usual source of care said high costs prevented them from visiting a single physician or clinic consistently.

In addition to their implications for health policy and reform, the results show the need for a broader range of health care options. An arsenal of studies show that pharmacist-provided care improves health outcomes and controls costs—particularly in areas where access to physicians, clinics, and hospitals is limted.

By embracing their role as patient care providers, pharmacists could begin to close these critical gaps in care. The survey’s findings revealed additional details about patients who lack a regular source of medical care:

  • Across all groups, never or rarely getting sick was the most common reason for having no usual source of care.
  • Hispanics were more likely than non-Hispanic Caucasians to cite cost as their main reason for having no usual source of care.
  • Compared with other ethnic groups, Asian Americans were more likely to report distrust of physicians as their main reason for not seeking regular care.
  • Approximately 29% of uninsured patients and 28% of low income patients reported cost as their main reason for having no usual source of care.

The findings were gleaned from an analysis of AHRQ’s Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a nationally representative survey that examines health care use and expenditures, health insurance, and health status among Americans from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. To view the full report, visit the AHRQ Web site.

For other articles in this issue, see:

  • Medicare Fraud Recovery Efforts Totaled $4 Billion
  • Tai-Chi, Fewer Meds May Prevent Falls in Elderly