Primary care practices have remained on the frontline of health care service delivery throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of our study was to understand the early pandemic experience of primary care practices, how they adapted care processes for chronic disease management and preventive care, and the future potential of these practices’ service delivery adaptations.
We interviewed 44 providers and staff at 22 high-performing primary care practices located throughout the United States between March and May 2020. Interviews were transcribed and coded using a modified rapid assessment process due to the time-sensitive nature of the study.
Practices reported employing a variety of adaptations to care during the COVID-19 pandemic including maintaining safe and socially distanced access through increased use of telehealth visits, using disease registries to identify and proactively outreach to patients, providing remote patient education, and incorporating more home-based monitoring into care. Routine screening and testing slowed considerably, resulting in concerns about delayed detection. Patients with fewer resources, lower health literacy, and older adults were the most difficult to reach and manage during this time.
Our findings indicate that primary care structures and processes developed for remote chronic disease management and preventive care are evolving rapidly. Emerging adapted care processes, most notably remote provision of care, are promising and may endure beyond the pandemic, but issues of equity must be addressed (e.g., through payment reform) to ensure vulnerable populations receive the same benefit.

© 2021. The Author(s).