Physician, heal Thyself? Regular source of care and use of preventive health services among physicians

Arch Intern Med. 2000 Nov 27;160(21):3209-14. doi: 10.1001/archinte.160.21.3209.


Background: Little is known about the regular source of care (RSOC) among physicians, a group whose self-care may reflect the attitudes and recommendations they convey to their patients.

Methods: We performed a cohort study of physicians who graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine from 1948 through 1964 to identify predictors of not having an RSOC, and to determine whether not having an RSOC was associated with subsequent receipt of preventive services. The RSOC was assessed in a 1991 survey; use of cancer screening tests and the influenza vaccine was assessed in 1997.

Results: The response rate in 1991 was 77% (915 respondents); 35% (312) had no RSOC. Internists (odds ratio [OR], 3.26; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.58-6.74), surgeons (OR, 2.42; 95% CI, 1.17-5.02), and pathologists (OR, 5.46; 95% CI, 2.09-14.29) were significantly more likely to not have an RSOC than pediatricians. Not having an RSOC was inversely related to the belief that health is determined by health professionals (OR, 0.45; 95% CI, 0.29-0.68) and directly related to the belief that chance (OR, 1.90; 95% CI, 1.28-2.82) determines health. Not having an RSOC in 1991 predicted not being screened for breast, colon, and prostate cancer, as well as not receiving an influenza vaccine at 6 years of follow-up.

Conclusions: A large percentage of physicians in our sample had no RSOC, and this was associated with both medical specialty and beliefs about control of health outcomes. Not having an RSOC was significantly associated with failure to use preventive services several years later. Arch Intern Med. 2000;160:3209-3214.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Endoscopy, Digestive System
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Influenza Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Mammography
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Occult Blood
  • Odds Ratio
  • Physicians / psychology
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Preventive Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Preventive Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood
  • Self Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States


  • Influenza Vaccines
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen