OBJECTIVE Studies have shown that patients without a consistent primary care provider have inferior outcomes. However, little is known about the mechanisms for these effects. This study aims to determine whether primary care physicians (PCPs) provide more frequent medication intensification, lifestyle counseling, and patient encounters than other providers in the primary care setting.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS This retrospective cohort study included 584,587 encounters for 27,225 patients with diabetes and elevated A1C, blood pressure, and/or LDL cholesterol monitored for at least 2 years. Encounters occurred at primary care practices affiliated with two teaching hospitals in eastern Massachusetts.
RESULTS Of the encounters documented, 83% were with PCPs, 13% were with covering physicians, and 5% were with midlevel providers. In multivariable analysis, the odds of medication intensification were 49% (P < 0.0001) and 26% (P < 0.0001) higher for PCPs than for covering physicians and midlevel providers, respectively, whereas the odds of lifestyle counseling were 91% (P < 0.0001) and 21% (P = 0.0015) higher. During visits with acute complaints, covering physicians were even less likely, by a further 52% (P < 0.0001), to intensify medications, and midlevel providers were even less likely, by a further 41% (P < 0.0001), to provide lifestyle counseling. Compared with PCPs, the hazard ratios for time to the next encounter after a visit without acute complaints were 1.11 for covering physicians and 1.19 for midlevel providers (P < 0.0001 for both).
CONCLUSIONS PCPs provide better care through higher rates of medication intensification and lifestyle counseling. Covering physicians and midlevel providers may enable more frequent encounters when PCP resources are constrained.
- Received July 11, 2012.
- Accepted October 14, 2012.
- © 2012 by the American Diabetes Association.
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