One in three physicians unlikely to get routine medical care

nd 1964 who are surveyed every year about health behaviors and disease occurrence. The average age of the respondents was 61; 8 percent were women. Researchers looked at whether the physicians used a regular health provider in 1991, and compared that to whether they underwent various cancer screenings or got flu shots in 1997.

Those who had no regular source of care included the 252 (28 percent) who had no medical care at all, and the 60 (7 percent) who treated themselves. Approximately 43 percent had an independent physician as their main source of care, while 18 percent saw a colleague in their own medical practice. Not having a regular doctor was unrelated to age or gender but did vary widely by specialty, ranging from 21 percent among psychiatrists to 46 percent among pathologists. Internists were most likely to report self-treatment.

Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of the entire survey population had colon cancer screening, 71 percent of the women a mammogram, 76 percent a PSA test and 74 percent a flu shot. Among those who didn't have a regular doctor in 1991, only 55 percent underwent a colon cancer screening, 44 percent had mammograms, 62 percent had a PSA test, and 59 percent had a flu shot.

Researchers also asked the survey group whether they believed their health was controlled by chance, by their own means or by others. Among those who strongly felt health was up to chance, nearly 43 percent had no regular care provider. About 40 percent of those who felt internal means could control their health lacked a health provider and only 21 percent of those who felt others have control over their health lacked a health provider. Senior author Daniel E. Ford, M.D., M.P.H., indicated that such health beliefs likely affect most people's decision to seek preventive medical care.

A history of cancer in one or both parents did not influence the physicians' choice to have a regular health provider.

Klag cautions that these data are

Contact: Karen Infeld
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

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