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Changes in the Proportion and Volume of Care Provided to Children by Generalists and Subspecialists

Freed GL, Nahra TA, Venus PJ, Schech SD, Wheeler JR
Journal of Pediatrics
Pub Med #: 

To assess whether primary care physicians, via referrals or other mechanisms, are now providing proportionally less care for children with specific common diagnoses, thus driving greater demand for specialist services.

Study Design
Secondary data analysis (1993-2001) from one of the largest commercial healthcare organizations in the United States. Evaluation and management (E/M) common procedural terminology (CPT) visit codes and International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes pertaining to asthma, constipation, headache, and heart murmurs were selected. Visits were then assigned to the specialty of physician providing care. Significant differences between and among categories of physicians were tested using logistic regression.

Overall, pediatrician generalists and specialists provided a greater proportion of E/M visits to children in 2001 than in 1993, compared with nonpediatrician providers. However, although the absolute increase in the proportion of all E/M visits by children <18 years of age to pediatrician generalists was greater than that of pediatrician subspecialists (4.77% vs 0.69%; P <.0001), the relative increase was much smaller for the generalists (8.9% vs 19.7%; P <.0001). Findings were consistent for most of the specific diagnoses examined.

The increases in both the proportion and number of visits made to specialists has not been accompanied by a decrease in visits to generalists.