Going the distance: the influence of practice location on the Ontario Maternal Serum Screening Program.
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BACKGROUND: The Ontario Maternal Serum Screening (MSS) Program was introduced by the Ontario Ministry of Health as a province-wide pilot project in 1993. The objective of this study was to determine the influence of practice location on Ontario health care providers' use of and opinions regarding MSS, access to follow-up services and recommendations about the program. METHODS: A questionnaire was mailed to a random sample of 2000 family physicians, all 565 obstetricians and all 62 registered midwives in Ontario between November 1994 and March 1995. RESULTS: Among providers who were eligible (those providing antenatal care or attending births) the response rates were 91.4% (778/851), 76.0% (273/359) and 78.0% (46/59) respectively. Fewer respondents in the Northwest region (71.4%) and in rural areas (81.9%) stated that they routinely offer MSS to all pregnant women in their practices compared with respondents in other regions (84.4%-91.5%) and urban centres (90.1%). Fewer respondents in the northern regions (Northeast 49.2%, Northwest 25.0%) than in the Central East region (includes Toronto) (76.6%) felt that follow-up services were readily available. Respondents in the northern regions had less favourable opinions of MSS than those in the other regions in terms of its complexity, cost, the time involved in counselling and the high false-positive rate. More respondents in the Central East region (64.6%) and in urban centres (52.9%) recommended not changing the MSS program than did those in the Northwest (7.1%) and rural areas (39.8%). After provider characteristics were controlled for in a logistic regression analysis, practice location was not the most important factor. Instead, the model showed that respondents who cared for 50 or more pregnant women in the previous year were more likely to offer MSS routinely (OR 2.00, 95% CI 1.21-3.27) and that those who felt that patient characteristics affect the offering of MSS (OR 0.42, 95% CI 0.26-0.67) or that follow-up services were not readily available (OR 0.33, 95% CI 0.20-0.55) were less likely to offer it. INTERPRETATION: Health care providers in northern and rural Ontario were less likely to offer MSS routinely than those in other regions and were more likely to recommend changing or eliminating the program. Providers' concerns about the social and cultural sensitivity of MSS and the availability of follow-up services affected use.
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