Background: The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which consumer and provider reports of primary care differ according to particular characteristics of the primary care setting.
Methods: A random sample of consumers was surveyed by telephone in a defined geographic area of Washington, DC, to determine their experiences with care provided to a randomly chosen child. The primary care provider of each respondent was sent a parallel survey. Scores were obtained for each of two subdomains in the four cardinal primary care domains (first contact, longitudinality, comprehensiveness, and coordination) and for three related domains (family centeredness, community orientation, and cultural competence). Differences between settings that did or did not impose limitations on autonomy for referrals and between fee-for-service and capitated settings were ascertained.
Results: Both consumers and their providers in settings characterized by high degrees of limitation on physician autonomy or by capitation reported better first-contact accessibility and a greater range of services available than did consumers in settings with low degrees of limitation, or by fee-for-service reimbursements to physicians. Consumers but not providers reported better family centeredness in these settings. Most other differences favored these settings as well, but these were not consistently statistically significant for both providers and consumers in both types of settings.
Conclusions: The quality of primary care services in different settings can be ascertained by using an instrument with demonstrated reliability and convergent validity. Although certain types of settings, in the particular geographic area studied, appear to perform better in several key aspects of the primary care, replication of the study in other areas would be useful judging the performance of the newer types of settings to be superior to more conventional care for general populations.