Characteristics and Disparities among Primary Care Practices in the United States

David Michael Levine*, Jeffrey A. Linder, Bruce E. Landon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: Despite new incentives for US primary care, concerns abound that patient-centered practice capabilities are lagging. Objective: Describe the practice structure, patient-centered capabilities, and payment relationships of US primary care practices; identify disparities in practice capabilities. Design: Analysis of the 2015 Medical Organizations Survey (MOS), part of the nationally representative Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). Setting: Practice-reported information from primary care practices of MEPS respondents who reported receiving primary care and made at least one visit in 2015 to that practice. Participants: Surveyed primary care practices (n = 4318; 77% response rate) providing primary care to 7161 individuals, representing 101,159,263 Americans. Main Measures: Practice structure (ownership and personnel); practice capabilities (certification as a patient-centered medical home [PCMH], electronic health record [EHR] use, and x-ray capability); and payment orientation (accountable care organization [ACO] and capitation). Key Results: Independently owned practices served 55% of patients, hospital-owned practices served 19%, and nonprofit/government/academic-owned served 20%. Solo practices served 25% of patients and practices with 2–10 physicians served 53% of patients. Forty-one percent of patients were served by practices certified as PCMHs. Practices with EHRs cared for 90% of patients and could exchange secure messages with 78% of patients. Practices with in-office x-ray capability cared for 34% of patients. Practices participating in ACOs and capitation served 44% and 46% of patients, respectively. Primary care patients in the South, compared to the rest of the country, had less access to nearly all practice capabilities, including patient care coordination (adjusted difference, 13% [95% CI, 8–18]) and secure EHR messaging (adjusted difference, 6% [95% CI, 1–10]). Uninsured patients were less likely to be served at a practice that used an EHR (adjusted difference, 9% [95% CI, 2–16]). Conclusions: Participants’ primary care practices were mostly independently owned, nearly always used EHRs (albeit of varying capability), and frequently participated in innovative payment arrangements for a portion of their patients. Patient practices in the South had fewer capabilities than the rest of the country.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-486
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018


  • disparities in primary care
  • practice characteristics
  • primary care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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