Variation in Primary Care Service Patterns by Rural-Urban Location.

The Journal of rural health : official journal of the American Rural Health Association and the National Rural Health Care Association

PubMedID: 26376210

Weigel PA, Ullrich F, Shane DM, Mueller KJ. Variation in Primary Care Service Patterns by Rural-Urban Location. J Rural Health. 2016;.
Rural communities have disproportionately faced primary care shortages for decades in spite of policy efforts to prepare and attract primary care health professionals to practice in rural locales. Insight into how primary care physicians' service patterns in rural areas differ from those in less rural places is important to better inform recruitment strategies that target primary care providers and rural communities.

The purpose of this research is to describe how primary care physician service patterns vary by rural-urban location for a large, privately insured population. We discuss implications of service pattern variation on policy efforts to attract primary care providers to underserved rural areas.

Claims data from fully insured commercial health insurance beneficiaries were used to develop service pattern profiles for primary care providers located in 1 of 4 types of rural-urban areas in Iowa in 2009. The 4 area types are metropolitan, micropolitan, noncore area adjacent to a metro area, and noncore/nonadjacent rural area.

There were differences in primary care physicians' service patterns by rural-urban area type. Physicians in nonmetropolitan areas provided relatively more care on a per physician basis than those in the metropolitan area type, as well as more surgery, maternity, emergency, and nursing facility services than metropolitan physicians.

Primary care physicians who value practicing a relatively diverse range of services may find locating in rural areas an appealing choice. Health systems and policy makers seeking to attract primary care physicians to rural areas can incorporate this reality into a recruitment strategy.