Objective: To determine whether there is a relation between physician characteristics and prescribing for elderly patients.
Design: Descriptive study linking two provincial databases.
Setting: New Brunswick.
Participants: All general practitioners (GPs) in New Brunswick who ordered at least 200 prescriptions for elderly beneficiaries of the New Brunswick Prescription Drug Program between Apr. 1, 1990, and Mar. 31, 1991; eligible GPs accounted for 376 (40%) of all physicians with a general licence in New Brunswick.
Main outcome measures: GPs' personal and professional characteristics (age, sex, family practice accreditation, country of training and number of years in practice), practice characteristics (number of practice days, number of patients seen and medical services provided per day, average amount of billing per patient, total number of patients seen and their average age, and total amount of billings) and number of prescriptions by category of drug.
Results: High prescribers and low prescribers did not differ significantly in age, number of years in practice, mean practice size or patient age. Compared with the low prescribers the high prescribers were more likely to be male, have been trained in Canada and be qualified by the Canadian College of Family Physicians. Also, they had more practice days, saw more patients per day, performed more services per day, billed more per patient and billed on average 30% more during the study period. Overall, the high prescribers ordered on average 45% more prescriptions than the low prescribers.
Conclusion: There is a significant relation between certain physician characteristics and prescribing behaviour. Further study is required to examine the relation between these variables and patient outcomes.