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. Their research identified 11 top-performing primary care groups across the country and 10 common practices they share with the goal of giving guidance to others.

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

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 Medical Group.

The 10 attributes of excellent primary care practices are:

  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. investments in people rather than space and equipment

Stanford is now working with the Peterson Center on Healthcare, which funded the study, to disseminate the findings, and to put those practices to use 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.

America’s Most Valuable Care: Primary Care (pdf 2014)