Objectives: To estimate (1) the average number of patients per practitioner in Pediatric Research in Office Settings, the national practice-based research network of the American Academy of Pediatrics; (2) the total number of active patients cared for in the network; and (3) the age-sex distribution of patients seen in pediatric practice.
Setting: Eighty-nine practices in 31 states with 373 Pediatric Research in Office Settings practitioners (59% of Pediatric Research in Office Settings members).
Methods: Practices were asked to enumerate the number of patients visiting the practice during the 2-year period from January 1, 1991, through December 31, 1992. Patients making multiple visits were counted only once, resulting in a patient count rather than a visit count. Age-sex registers were completed using computer billing records or medical record sampling.
Results: Study participants cared for 529513 active patients (50.7% male). Each practitioner cared for an average of 1546 patients. The number of patients per practitioner was significantly higher in less-populated areas and in solo practices. Children aged 12 years and younger comprised 81% of the patients seen by Pediatric Research in Office Settings practitioners, and more than half of the children were aged 6 years or younger. Before age 5 years, boys accounted for a slightly, but significantly, higher number of patients, whereas after age 14 years, girls comprised a significantly larger proportion of patients.
Conclusions: The average number of 1546 patients per practitioner derived from these private practice data is in line with health maintenance organization-based estimates. Pediatric practitioners predominantly serve younger children. These data provide the only current national estimates of the size and age-sex distribution of independent pediatric practices, and can help pediatricians and health service researchers plan for the future provision of health care to children.