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Medicare Beneficiaries With a Specialist as Their Personal Doctor Report Better Experiences With Care

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Background:

Health plans often require that patients have a personal doctor. Older adults rely on specialists for much of their care and may use a specialist in this role, but little is known about how many or which Medicare beneficiaries use specialists as their personal doctor and how their care experiences differ from others’.

Objective:

To examine the prevalence and characteristics of Medicare beneficiaries with a specialist as a personal doctor and compare their patient experiences and immunization to other beneficiaries’.

Research Design:

Logistic regression predicted having a specialist as a personal doctor from beneficiary characteristics. Doubly-robust models compared 7 patient experience and 2 immunization measures for beneficiaries with and without a specialist as their personal doctor. Interactions of a specialist indicator and beneficiary characteristics tested for moderators.

Study Population:

A total of 227,642 Medicare beneficiaries aged 65+ who reported having a personal doctor on the 2014 Medicare CAHPS survey.

Results:

In total, 20% of beneficiaries reported that their personal doctor was a specialist, fewer than previously reported for the most frequently visited physician (43%); beneficiaries who were older, less healthy, less educated, racial/ethnic minorities, had fee-for-service coverage, or had lower income were more likely to do so. They also reported better patient experiences than those with nonspecialist personal physicians on 6 of 7 measures and more immunizations; the largest difference was for care coordination. Having a specialist personal doctor was associated with particularly positive patient experience for low income, Black, Hispanic, and less healthy beneficiaries.

Conclusion:

Future research should investigate whether specialists as personal doctors may reduce patient-experience disparities for vulnerable patients.
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Keywords: patient centered care; patient surveys; physician specialty; primary care

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA 2: Carnegie Mellon University, Heinz College, RAND Corporation, Pittsburgh, PA 3: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Baltimore, MD 4: RAND Corporation, Boston, MA

Publication date: June 1, 2019

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