Purposes: To document the content and level of obstetrical hospital-based privileges for members of the American Academy of Family Physicians and to describe variations between regions, rural vs urban practices, and various physician characteristics.
Methods: About 12% of the active members of the American Academy of Family Physicians listed as offering obstetrical care by the Academy as of March 1991 were randomly sampled by mailed questionnaire. Samples were drawn from three national regions. Privileges were grouped by degree of restriction, based on whether consultation or transfer was required.
Results: Of 1464 surveys mailed, 1026 physicians (70%) responded. Only 740 (72%) stated that they still practiced obstetrics. Privileges ranged from least restricted (100% provided vaginal vertex delivery, with no consultation required) to most restricted (79% provided amniocentesis, with consultation or transfer required). A surprisingly large proportion of physicians reported having fewer routine and more advanced privileges without consultations being required, such as ultrasonography (53%), vaginal breech delivery (41%), and cesarean section (25%). Physicians having more advanced privileges tended to be located in the West or mountain-plains region; be trained in the Midwest, mountain-plains region, or the West; work in middle-sized, nonteaching hospitals in more rural countries; have completed advanced obstetrical training (> or = 6 months); and deliver more than 40 infants per year.
Conclusions: Overall, a considerable number of hospital-based obstetrical privileges are granted to family physicians. No uniformity in privileges prevails, owing to significant regional and practice variations. Teaching hospitals reportedly restrict obstetrical care by family physicians more than other hospitals. The variations in restrictions could not be explained by degree of training.