Research on the Impact of Physician Competition on Health Care Utilization

How does the concentration of physicians in communities affect utilization of care? A team of researchers at the University of Washington, using The Community Tracking Study Household Survey along with the Area Resource File, the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, and the national tracking cohort of rural communities developed by the University of Washington, conducted three analyses: First, they explored variation among metropolitan areas facing competitive pressure by combining measures of both physician supply and managed care penetration. Second, they tested the degree to which utilization patterns and perceived quality of care changed with the level of potential physician oversupply. Finally, they estimated the cost consequences of changes in utilization patterns that may be triggered by shifts in market-level competition. In addition, the researchers profiled nine non-metropolitan sites to describe the effects of geographic isolation and competition on patterns of care received by rural residents. The objective of the study was to examine, from the point of view of patients, how generalist and specialist physicians respond to increased competition for their services.