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Having a regular doctor protects children from a variety of ills

Children who see the same doctor repeatedly are likely to stay healthier than children who see different doctors, according to a University of Washington study. Children with a regular doctor are considerably less likely than their peers to find themselves in an emergency room or admitted to a hospital.

"Having a regular doctor is good medicine," says Dr. Dimitri Christakis, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the UW School of Medicine and associate director of UW's Child Health Institute in Seattle.

The results of the analysis are in the March issue of Pediatrics, a publication of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The paper is titled, "Association of Lower Continuity of Care with Greater Risk of Emergency Department Use and Hospitalization in Children."

The finding comes at a time when the health-care system in the United States often works against parents who want to take their child to the same doctor, Christakis warns. Parents may take their children to different providers because of the policies of some managed care organizations or because of changes in insurance coverage.

"It seems clear that health-care providers and policymakers should do what they can to help children and parents maintain a consistent relationship with their doctor," Christakis says. "This is a very simple thing that can improve childrens health." Christakis and colleagues studied the records of 47,000 children with a median age of 5 in the Seattle area. The researchers divided the children into three groups, depending on how often they saw the same physicians.

In the group with the lowest continuity of care, children were 60 percent more likely than others to have visited an emergency room, and 54 percent more likely to have been hospitalized. In the group which had a moderate amount of continuity of care, children were 28 percent more likely than children who saw the same doctor to go on to an ER, and 22 percent more likely to require a hospital stay.

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Contact: Walter Neary
wneary@u.washington.edu
206-685-3841
University of Washington
4-Mar-2001


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