Rural family physicians twice as likely to accept new patients as those in
larger cities

Internationally educated medical graduates accepting more new patients than Canadian-educated medical graduates

OTTAWA, July 8 /CNW Telbec/ - Family physicians working in rural areas and small towns were more likely to be accepting new patients than their urban counterparts, according to a new report released today by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). While factors such as place of graduation, age, type of practice and gender did contribute to whether or not family physicians reported their practice as open to new patients, none had as strong an association as location. More than 35% of rural doctors surveyed were accepting new patients, compared to fewer than 18% - or fewer than one in five - of those in urban areas. CIHI's analysis, What Do We Know About Family Physicians Who Accept New Patients?, is based on the National Physician Survey (NPS) conducted in 2007 by the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) with substantial funding by CIHI and Health Canada.

Among family doctors working in rural areas, international medical graduates (IMGs) were more likely to say they were accepting new patients than family physicians who obtained their medical degrees in Canada. Just less than two-thirds (62%) of IMGs practising in rural areas were accepting patients, compared to 27% of their Canadian-educated counterparts. While the difference was not as pronounced in urban areas, IMGs were still significantly more likely to be accepting new patients (27% versus 16%).

"Access to a family physician is considered essential to ensuring good primary health care for Canadians," says Geoff Ballinger, Manager, Health Human Resources, at CIHI. "Understanding the characteristics of those physicians who are accepting new patients can help in addressing issues associated with timely access to care."

Age, gender, type of practice all contribute to likelihood of physicians accepting new patients

Those physicians at either end of the age spectrum were more likely to be accepting new patients than their colleagues age 45 to 54. This trend held for family physicians working in both rural and urban settings. Male physicians were also more likely to have open practices than their female counterparts. For all age ranges and both sexes, rural family medicine physicians were significantly more likely to say they were accepting new patients than their urban equivalents.

In rural areas, 38% of family physicians working in group or interprofessional practices indicated that they were open to new patients, compared to 25% of those working in solo practices. In urban areas, there was very little difference between the percentage of family physicians in group or interprofessional practices (18%) and those in solo practices (16%) who said they were accepting new patients. When comparing rural family physicians with their urban colleagues who worked the same number of hours per week (excluding on-call activities), rural family physicians were still significantly more likely to indicate they were accepting new patients.

Satisfaction with professional life a predictor in some areas but not others

Of the six factors tested in this analysis, satisfaction with professional life was the only factor that did not appear to influence whether or not a rural family physician was accepting patients. For urban family physicians, those who were satisfied with their professional lives were significantly more likely to indicate they were accepting new patients than those who were dissatisfied.

About CIHI

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) collects and analyzes information on health and health care in Canada and makes it publicly available. Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments created CIHI as a not-for-profit, independent organization dedicated to forging a common approach to Canadian health information. CIHI's goal: to provide timely, accurate and comparable information. CIHI's data and reports inform health policies, support the effective delivery of health services and raise awareness among Canadians of the factors that contribute to good health.

The report and the following figures are available from CIHI's website, at www.cihi.ca.

    
    Figure 1  Percentage of Family Physicians Accepting New Patients, Rural
              and Urban Practices, Canada, 2004 and 2007 (Figure 1 in the
              report)

    Figure 2  Percentage of Family Physicians Accepting New Patients by
              Location of Medical Graduation, Rural and Urban Practices,
              Canada, 2007 (Figure 2 in the report)

    Figure 3  Percentage of Family Physicians Accepting New Patients by Age
              Group, Rural and Urban Practices, Canada, 2007 (Figure 4 in the
              report)
    

SOURCE Canadian Institute for Health Information

For further information: For further information: Leona Hollingsworth, 416-549-5213, Cell: 416-460-2365, lhollingsworth@cihi.ca; Angela Baker, 416-549-5402, Cell: 416-459-6855, anbaker@cihi.ca


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