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Larger medical groups may deliver better care

Physician Practice Advisor, December 13, 2006

Primary care practices with more doctors scored higher on four of six measures of quality than those with fewer physicians, according to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the Harvard School of Public Health. Researchers compared data from 119 California physicians for a 12-month period and an estimated 1.7 million patients were involved, according to an article in the Washington Post.

The researchers' goal was to compare the care delivered by large group practices that employ dozens or even hundreds of doctors with small practices consisting of three or fewer physicians. The practices with more doctors scored higher on quality measures including the percentage of patients who receive mammograms, pap smears, or eye exams for diabetics, according to the article. In two areas, use of asthma medication and prescription beta-blockers after a heart attack, the researchers found no difference between large and small practices.

Researchers speculated that although the reason for the differences is not clear, it may reflect the characteristics of doctors who gravitate to certain types of practices. Younger, more recently trained physicians may be more likely to join larger groups, which may boost the quality of care in some of the areas researchers analyzed, the researchers said in the article.

To read the full Washington Post article, click here.