Primary care physicians who are providing high-quality care at a low cost are doing so by adapting to a changing world, according to Stanford University researchers.

The research identified 11 top-performing primary care groups across the country and 10 common practices they share (listed at the end of this story) with the goal of giving guidance to others.

Kevin Bundy, M.D., a family practice physician at one of the top-performing practices, TriHealth West Chester Medical Group, says it’s critical in today’s environment for doctor groups to constantly evolve. “No one in our practice believes that we are changing to come to a specific end,” he says. “Change is just sort of the status quo now, and there will be continual re-evaluation and improvement.”

The researchers from the Stanford University Clinical Excellence Research Center estimate that the health care system would save $300 billion per year if the best practices were adopted across the country. “We wanted to find out what was happening in the bright spots around the country — small scale doctors’ offices and community hospitals that excel, relative to their peers in the United States, in producing better health while consuming lesser amounts of health care spending,” says Arnold Milstein, M.D., director of the research center.

Stanford looked at 41 quality metrics and data on spending from 15,000 practices with at least two doctors’ providing primary care. They found that fewer than 5 percent of those ranked at the top of the list in terms of quality and at the bottom of the list in terms of costs.

Stanford is now working with the Peterson Center on Healthcare, which funded the study, to disseminate the study findings, and put those best practices to use sometime in the first half of this year. Stanford’s research center also hopes to compile similar lists of best practices for other parts of the health care industry, such as medical specialty practices.

Among the top performers are hospital- or health system-owned Banner Health Clinic Internal Medicine; Baptist Medical Group, Memphis Primary Care; SureCare Medical Center; St. Jude Heritage Medical Group; and TriHealth West Chester. 



10 attributes of excellent primary care practices

  1 | Easily accessible
  2 | Tests and treatments chosen wisely
  3 | Feedback encouraged
  4 | Tests and procedures not outsourced
  5 | Referrals made with care and monitoring
  6 | Follow-up appointments and meds checked
  7 | Providers work at the top of their licenses
  8 | Collaboration prevalent
  9 | Pay based on performance
10 | Invests in people rather than space and equipment

Source: Stanford University Clinical Excellence Research Center, 2014