More money should be put into GP surgeries to help keep patients safe, the chairman of the British Medical Association in Northern Ireland has said.
Saving funds on primary care and early intervention will also leave the ill needing more expensive hospital services, Dr Brian Dunn warned.
Family doctors unveiled their 10-year strategy at Stormont on Wednesday.
Dr Dunn said: "If you place most of your investment in secondary care you end up with a more expensive health service.
"Research has shown investing in primary care and general practices you have less people going to secondary services."
In Northern Ireland, secondary care accounts for 10% of NHS care and 90% of the funding, the Larne GP added.
The strategy said: "Sustained investment into areas of education, GP premises, information technology and skilled workforces are key to the future success of the health and social care service."
Dr Dunn said the authorities were keen to promote care in the community and the resources had to follow that.
"GPs often have a long-term relationship with the patient... and know the patient's family circumstances," he added. "It brings about safer and cheaper care for the NHS."
The strategy, "The Future of General Practice in Northern Ireland", is a plan for meeting the challenges ahead. These include improving leadership and management, services and accessibility, and the paper also said new professional partnerships should be forged with health trusts and commissioners.