J Fam Pract 50:676-680.
University of Washington, Department of Family Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA
OBJECTIVE: Our goal was to compare the quality of diabetic care received by patients in rural and urban communities.
STUDY DESIGN: We performed a retrospective analysis of claims data captured by the Medicare program.
POPULATION: We included all fee-for-service Medicare patients 65 years and older living in the state of Washington who had 2 or more physician encounters for diabetes care during 1994.
OUTCOME MEASURES: The outcomes were the extent to which patients received 3 specific recommended services: glycated hemoglobin determination, cholesterol measurement, and eye examination.
RESULTS: A total of 30,589 Medicare patients (8.4%) were considered to have diabetes; 29.1% lived in rural communities. Generalists provided most diabetic care in all locations. Patients living in small rural towns received almost half their outpatient care in larger communities. Patients living in large rural towns remote from metropolitan areas were more likely to have received the recommended tests than patients in all other groups. Patients who saw an endocrinologist at least once during the year were more likely to have received the recommended tests.
CONCLUSIONS: Large rural towns may provide the best conditions for high-quality care: They are vibrant, rapidly growing communities that serve as regional referral centers and have an adequate-but not excessive-supply of both generalist and specialist physicians. Generalists provide most diabetic care in all settings, and consultation with an endocrinologist may improve adherence to guidelines.
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