City of Boston creates primary care referral service

In one of several steps it's taking to improve access to primary care, the city of Boston's health department is starting a telephone referral service that will direct residents to primary care physicians who are accepting new patients. The referral service is one of the first initiatives kicked off by a task force, chaired by Mayor Thomas Menino, established to look at how primary care options can be improved within the city. The mayor is also looking at whether medical institutions could provide subsidized housing for primary care doctors in new research buildings.

This seems like a well-timed initiative, given that Boston--and the state of Massachusetts as a whole--may face worse primary care shortages than some other states. With the state's universal health insurance initiative bringing more patients into the fold, primary care access is particularly difficult there.

Menino formed the current panel, in part, due to his resistance to the encroachment of retail clinics in the city. (The mayor seems to dislike intensely retail clinics intensely, for reasons that he hasn't articulated well.) Originally, he'd hoped to drive them out of Boston, but he's switched his focus to primary care access outside of clinics.

To learn more about this initiative:
- read this article from The Boston Globe

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