Variations in the service quality of medical practices

Dan P. Ly, Sherry A. Glied

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To examine regional variation in the service quality of physician practices and to assess the association of this variation with the supply and organization of physicians. Study Design: Secondary analyses of the Community Tracking Study (CTS) household and physician surveys. Methods: A total of 40,339 individuals who had seen a primary care physician because of an illness or injury and 17,345 generalist physicians across 4 survey time periods in 60 CTS sites were included. Service quality measures used were lag between making an appointment and seeing a physician, and wait time at the physician's office. Our supply measure was the physician-to-population ratio. Our organizational measure was the percentage of physicians in group practices. Multivariate regressions were performed to examine the relationship between service quality and the supply and organization of physicians. Results: There was substantial variation in the service quality of physician visits across the country. For example, in 2003, the average wait time to see a doctor was 16 minutes in Milwaukee but more than 41 minutes in Miami; the average appointment lag for a sick visit in 2003 was 1.2 days in west-central Alabama but almost 6 days in Northwestern Washington. Service quality was not associated with the primary care physician-to-population ratio and had varying associations with the organization of practices. Conclusions: Cross-site variation in service quality of care in primary care has been large, persistent, and associated with the organization of practices. Areas with higher primary care physician-to- population ratios had longer, not shorter, appointment lags.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e378-e385
JournalAmerican Journal of Managed Care
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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