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The Future(s) of Pediatric Primary Care.

  • Wasserman, Richard C1
  • Fiks, Alexander G2
  • 1 Larner College of Medicine, University of Vermont (RC Wasserman), Charlotte, Vt. Electronic address: [email protected]
  • 2 Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Department of Pediatrics, Center for Pediatric Clinical Effectiveness, and the Possibilities Project, Roberts Center for Pediatric Research (AG Fiks), Philadelphia, Pa.
Published Article
Academic pediatrics
Publication Date
Apr 01, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.acap.2020.10.015
PMID: 33130066


Pediatric primary care (PPC) arose in the early 20th century as the fusion of acute and chronic pediatric illness care with preventive elements borrowed from public and maternal and child health. Well-established and thriving by the 1930s, PPC saw major changes in childhood morbidity and mortality in the latter half of the 20th century with the recognition of the "new morbidity" of school, behavior, and social problems. At the same time, PPC experienced changes in its workforce, which became increasingly female and added nurse practitioners and physician assistants as practitioners. Independent practice, previously the dominant business model, decreased in prominence at the end of the 20th century as health systems bought practices and other sites morphed into federally qualified health centers. In the present century, electronic health records (EHRs) have brought profound changes in PPC workflows and practitioner experience. In addition, disruptive market competition such as retail clinics and corporate telemedicine providers coupled with changes in health insurance from fee-for-service to value-based payment further challenge the care model and economics of PPC. Finally, recognition of family social circumstances as major determinants of children's health presents another challenge to the status quo. As such, although one PPC future may resemble its present state, a more innovative future is likely to include clinics and practices more oriented toward and linked to communities and directed at the social determinants of health. In addition, the rise in physical, behavioral, and social problems in practice call for a growing focus on wellness, including sleep, nutrition, and activity, that promises to reorient the PPC future in productive new directions. The half-way technology of current EHR systems will ideally be spun into electronic hubs that facilitate teamwork between PPC, specialists, and community groups. Research and practice improvement strategies including involvement in "learning health systems" will be critical to making PPC effective in an evolving society. Although threatened by 21st century forces and hard-to-anticipate change, PPC is ideally positioned to build upon its core functions to create multidisciplinary teams that reach into the community, promoting a holistic wellness for children consistent with the broadest definition of health. Copyright © 2020 Academic Pediatric Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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