As 2016 winds down, there were a ton of primary care advances that will hopefully make the healthcare field better for the years to come. With an incoming president, constantly changing healthcare policy, and various new viruses and epidemics emerging, it’s great to know that we’re making steady progress towards a healthier, more advanced medical field. Physicians should be proud of the advancements we’ve made this year. Below, we’ve listed some of the key advances we’ve seen in 2016 that should propel us into 2017.
5 Primary Care Advances in 2016
1. Combatting the Opioid Addiction
While the opioid addiction has been increasing in relevance throughout the last decade, this past year saw it thrust into the limelight and luckily, the Center for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC) and medical field are working together to combat the opioid epidemic. Since 2000, the total death count has accumulated to nearly half a million people with about 78 people dying from opioid overdose every day.
In March, the CDC released its final guidance on opioid prescribing, urging clinicians not to use the painkillers as first-line therapy for chronic pain and suggesting limits on dose and duration when they do have to be prescribed. This has been a major shift since opioids were first introduced into the medical field. While many physicians have been quick to prescribe opioids, new findings are showing that opioids have been the most lethal drug to date. These new regulations are one step closer to taking control of the opioid epidemic.
2. SPRINT Trial Sheds Light On Blood Pressure
A SPRINT trial conducted this past year found that lowering the blood pressure of patients at risk for cardiovascular issues can decrease the chances of a heart attack or stroke by about 25%. While many patients might object to taking another pill, lowering their blood pressure could save them in the long run.
The study made many physicians rethink their approach towards treating hypertension and many are opting to take a more aggressive approach to treatment. As primary care advances, keep an eye out for physicians to take a stronger approach when it comes to treating high blood pressure.
3. Annual Checkups
This past year saw outcomes change pertaining to annual doctor’s visits. While it’s still important to encourage patients to visit their primary care physician at least once every year, other tests do not need to be performed on a yearly basis.
For example, while it used to be recommended for patients to receive a prostate or cervical cancer exam every year, now it is up to the doctor’s opinion and should be judged on a case-by-case basis. This will save both the patient and the medical practice money since they’re not performing tests as frequently.
4. New Data On Testosterone Found
New data on testosterone therapy called into question the effect of the treatment by publishing data showing that it had small to no effect on patients when it came to vitality. While it did have moderate sexual benefits, it did little to decrease fatigue or increase vitality.
Despite only being one study, these findings could lead to better treatment options and less wasted money of a therapy that does not provide significant benefits. This will be one of the primary care advances to keep an eye on in the coming years.
5. Our New President
With president-elect Donald Trump set to take the reigns of office in a few months, many physicians are wary of the possible reforms that Trump and other government officials could implement. Several primary care physicians alluded to the impact of various policy initiatives, such as the end of sustainable growth rate (SGR) and the coming of Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), as well as changes that were incorporated into daily practice as the result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), often musing about what will happen next.
It’s no secret that Trump and many other government politicians want to make extreme changes to Obamacare or get rid of it all together. Only time will tell how Trump plans to shake up the medical profession. Although this isn’t necessarily a primary care advance, let’s hope it doesn’t turn into a primary care regression.