Korean J Fam Pract.  2021 Feb;11(1):3-9. 10.21215/kjfp.2021.11.1.3.

Definition and Status of Funtional Primary Clinic in Korea

  • 1Department of Family Medicine, Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul, Korea
  • 2Department of Biomedical Sciences, Seoul National University Graduate School, Seoul, Korea
  • 3Seoul Health Promotion Center, Kangbuk Samsung Hospital, Seoul, Korea
  • 4Department of Health Policy and Management, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea


This study aimed to assess the state of primary care in South Korea by determining a functional definition of primary care using the National Health Insurance (NHIS) database. We categorized clinics into functional primary, specialized, and gray-zone clinics according to the degree of comprehensive care provided by the clinic. The number of clinics per 100,000 persons for the functional primary, specialized, and gray-zone clinics were 19.7, 28.4, and 10.6, respectively. The departments that had the highest number of functional primary clinics included general practitioners, departments of internal medicine, family medicine, pediatricians, and general surgery. The proportion of patients who had a functional primary clinic as their most frequent provider was 29.8%. A functional definition of primary care clinics may assist in assessing the state of primary care in South Korea, as well as helping to determine and predict the effects of public health policies. Future studies should investigate the association of functional primary clinics with care quality and patient health outcomes in order to validate the functional definition of primary care. Furthermore, the addition of preventive practices, patient referral, and transfer-related information in the National Health Insurance Service database would be beneficial in developing and refining a more detailed and accurate definition of primary care from a functional perspective.


Primary Care; Comprehensiveness; Claim Data; Operational Definition
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