Correlates of certification in family medicine in the billing patterns of Ontario general practitioners.
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There is conflicting evidence as to whether physicians who are certified in family medicine practise differently from their noncertified colleagues and what those differences are. We examined the extent to which certification in family medicine is associated with differences in the practice patterns of primary care physicians as reflected in their billing patterns. Billing data for 1986 were obtained from the Ontario Health Insurance Plan for 269 certified physicians and 375 noncertified physicians who had graduated from Ontario medical schools between 1972 and 1983 and who practised as general practitioners or family physicians in Ontario. As a group, certificants provided fewer services per patient and billed less per patient seen per month. They were more likely than noncertificants to include counselling, psychotherapy, prenatal and obstetric care, nonemergency hospital visits, surgical services and visits to chronic care facilities in their service mix and to bill in more service categories. Certificants billed more for prenatal and obstetric care, intermediate assessments, chronic care and nonemergency hospital visits and less for psychotherapy and after-hours services than noncertificants. Many of the differences detected suggest a practice style consistent with the objectives for training and certification in family medicine. However, whether the differences observed in our study and in previous studies are related more to self-selection of physicians for certification or to the types of educational experiences cannot be directly assessed.
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