Specialists Spend Much Time on Routine Care

Study finds under one-third of specialty care visits were referred by other physicians

TUESDAY, Mar. 10 (HealthDay News) -- A substantial portion of medical specialists' office-based activity is devoted to routine and preventive care for known patients, for services that might often be handled by primary care physicians, according to research published in the March/April issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

Jose M. Valderas, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, and colleagues analyzed data from 2002 through 2004 from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey on more than 1 billion ambulatory visits to U.S. office-based medical specialists, surgical specialists, obstetrician-gynecologists and psychiatrists.

Routine follow-up or preventive care for known patients was the reason for the most common type of visit, accounting for 46.3 percent of the overall visits, the investigators found. This number was much higher for obstetrician-gynecologists (64.3 percent) and psychiatrists (73.7 percent). Referrals from other physicians comprised only 30.4 percent of specialty care visits, the researchers report.

"The results of our study suggest now that not all activity performed by specialists when in a specialist role may require specialized care. In most organized health systems, common health problems are dealt with in primary care, but the U.S. health system has, in the past century, become increasingly specialty oriented, with consequent high costs and no additional health benefit," the authors write.

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