All modern healthcare systems need to respond to the common challenges posed by an aging population combined with a growing number of patients with (complex) chronic conditions and rising patient expectations. Countries with ‘stronger’ primary care systems (e.g. the Netherlands and England) seem to be better prepared to address these challenges than countries with ‘weaker’ primary care (e.g. USA). The role of primary care in a health care system is strongly related to its organisation and funding, thus determining the starting point and the possibilities for change.
The Netherlands aim to strengthen prevention for chronic diseases, while England strives to improve the management of patients with multimorbidity, prevent hospital admissions to contain costs, and to satisfy the increased demand of patients for access to primary care. Both countries seek to reorganise care around the patient and place their needs at the centre.
The USA has to provide sufficient workforce, organisation, and funding for primary care to ensure better access, prevention, and provision of chronic care for its population. Strategies to improve (trans-sectoral) cooperation and care coordination, a main issue in all three countries, include the implementation of standards of care and bundled payments for chronic diseases in the Netherlands, GP commissioning, federated and group practice models in England, and the introduction of the Patient-Centred Medical Home and accountable care organisations in the USA.
Organisation and financing of health care differ widely in the three countries. However, the necessity to improve coordination and integration of chronic disease care remains a common and core challenge.