Background: The increase in access to healthcare through the Affordable Care Act highlights the need to track where women seek their office-based care. The objectives of this study were to examine the types of physicians sought by women beyond their customary reproductive years and before being elderly.
Methods: This retrospective cohort study involved an analysis of national data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) between 2002 and 2012. Women between 45 and 64 years old (n = 44,830) were interviewed, and reviews of corresponding office visits (n = 330,114) were undertaken.
Results: In 2002, women aged 45-64 years (62%) went to a family or internal medicine physician only and this reached 72% in 2012. The percentage of women who went to an obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn) only decreased from 20% in 2002 to 12% in 2012. Most went to a family physician or general internist for a general checkup or for diagnosis or treatment. By contrast, visits to ob-gyn physicians were predominantly for general checkups. Those who went to an ob-gyn office were more likely to have a higher family income, live in the Northeast, and describe their overall health as being excellent.
Conclusions: Women aged 45-64 years were substantially more likely to obtain care exclusively at offices of family physicians or general internists than of ob-gyn physicians. Overlap in care provided at more than one physician's office requires continued surveillance in minimizing redundant cost and optimizing resource utilization.
Keywords: health maintenance; primary care; women's health.