Researchers evaluate the medical practice models of primary care physicians

Harmful medical practices, such as inappropriate opioid prescribing and racial and income discrimination in clinical settings, can vary among medical practices and individuals.

Patients may find that even common primary health care services, such as chest x-rays or referral to a heart or lung specialist, can vary widely depending on your doctor or the location of the clinic.

These variations in medical practice can have serious consequences for the quality, equity and cost of health care; However, it is not clear whether these disparities can be attributed to individual differences, between physicians, or to changes in your physician’s individual practice over time, possibly in response to changes. in clinical guidelines or to advances in diagnostic technologists.

Is this variation from person to person or variation over time? A group of Israeli researchers sought to answer this question in a retrospective cohort study using a decade of data from southern Israel’s largest healthcare provider.

This study shows that variations among physician practice patterns are significantly more pronounced than variations within physician practice patterns over a decade. Researchers assessed the medical practice models of 251 primary care physicians, including their rates of imaging tests, heart tests, lab tests, and specialist visits.

After adjusting for different patient and clinic characteristics, variations in practice patterns remain high, while individual physician patterns appear stable over time. The authors suggest that the personal behavioral characteristics of physicians might help explain the variations between practice models.


American Academy of Family Physicians

Journal reference:

Shashar, S., et al. (2021) Variation in medical practice among primary care physicians: 1 decade, 14 health services and 3,238,498 patient-years. Annals of Family Medicine.

About Tracy G. Larimore

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