Objectives: This study sought to evaluate national cholesterol management practices of U.S. physicians.
Background: Past studies show that nonclinical factors affect physician practices. We tested the hypothesis that physician and patient characteristics influence cholesterol management.
Methods: We used a stratified, random sample of 2,332 office-based physicians providing 56,215 visits to adults in the 1991-1992 National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys. We investigated physicians' reporting of cholesterol-related screening, counseling or medications during office visits and used multiple logistic regression to assess independent predictors.
Results: An estimated 1.12 billion adult office visits occurred in 1991 and 1992 (95% confidence interval 1.06 to 1.18 billion). For the 1.03 billion visits by patients without reported hyperlipidemia, cholesterol screening (2.8% of visits) and counseling (1.2%) were not frequent. The likelihood of screening increased with older age, cardiovascular disease risk factors, white race and private insurance. We estimate that only 1 in 12 adults received cholesterol screening annually. In the 85 million visits by patients with hyperlipidemia, cholesterol testing was reported in 22.9%, cholesterol counseling in 34.4% and lipid-lowering medications in 23.1%. Testing was more likely in diabetic and nonobese patients. Counseling was more likely with younger age, cardiovascular disease and private insurance. Medications use was associated with cardiovascular disease, Northeast region of the United States, nonobese patients and visits to internists. Physician practices did not differ by patient gender.
Conclusions: Although clinical conditions strongly influence cholesterol management, the appropriateness of variations noted by payment source, geographic region and physician specialty deserve further evaluation. These variations and the low estimated volume of services suggest that physicians have not fully adopted recommended cholesterol management practices.