The Effects of Having a Regular Doctor on Access to Primary Care

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The authors assessed the relationship between having a regular doctor and access to care, as measured by a set of preventive and primary care utilization indicators recommended by the Institute of Medicine. The 1987 National Medical Expenditure Survey was used in the analyses (n = 30,012). The results of the regression analyses suggest that individuals with any type of regular source of care had better access than those without a regular source of care. Persons with a regular doctor had better access to primary care than those with a regular site but no regular doctor. However, the apparent advantage of having a regular doctor over a regular site disappeared when only those individuals reporting a physician's office, clinic, or health maintenance organization as their regular source of care were compared. These results suggest that policies that promote the doctor-patient relationship will increase access, although the gains may be negligible for individuals who use mainstream primary care sites (physician's office, clinic, or health maintenance organization) versus sites such as walk-in clinics or emergency rooms.

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