One in three physicians unlikely to get routine medical care

November 26, 2000

Doctor, heal thyself? That seems the motto among a group of physicians surveyed by Johns Hopkins researchers: More than a third said they were unlikely to see a doctor on a regular basis.

Of 915 physicians queried by the Hopkins team, 312 (34 percent) said they had no regular source of care. Internists, surgeons and pathologists were significantly less likely to have a regular health provider than pediatricians or psychiatrists, the survey found. And those that reported no regular source of care were less likely to get flu shots or recommended breast, colon and prostate cancer screenings over the next six years.

Results of the study, published in the Nov. 27 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, also reported that those less likely to get regular medical attention reject care because they think it's unnecessary. They either believe they can take care of themselves or that their health is a matter of luck or chance.

"The interventions that physicians didn't take advantage of - mainly screening for colon cancer - also are practiced less among the general population," says Michael J. Klag, M.D., M.P.H., interim chairman for the Department of Medicine at Hopkins and director of the study. "Still, because physicians' health beliefs and practices influence how they treat patients, we would like to see all health providers take advantage of these potentially life-saving medical tests."

The doctors surveyed were less likely to have a regular care provider than those in the general population, where about 15 percent don't have a regular source of care. But overall, physicians' use of preventive health measures was much higher than that of the general population, "so on average, physicians do practice what they preach," Klag says.

The research team, led by Cary P. Gross, M.D., drew their survey subjects from the Johns Hopkins Precursors Study, a long-term investigation of 1,337 medical students, mostly male, enrolled at Hopkins between 1948 and 1964 who are surveyed every year about health behaviors and disease occurrence. The average age of the respondents was 61; 8 percent were women. Researchers looked at whether the physicians used a regular health provider in 1991, and compared that to whether they underwent various cancer screenings or got flu shots in 1997.

Those who had no regular source of care included the 252 (28 percent) who had no medical care at all, and the 60 (7 percent) who treated themselves. Approximately 43 percent had an independent physician as their main source of care, while 18 percent saw a colleague in their own medical practice. Not having a regular doctor was unrelated to age or gender but did vary widely by specialty, ranging from 21 percent among psychiatrists to 46 percent among pathologists. Internists were most likely to report self-treatment.

Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of the entire survey population had colon cancer screening, 71 percent of the women a mammogram, 76 percent a PSA test and 74 percent a flu shot. Among those who didn't have a regular doctor in 1991, only 55 percent underwent a colon cancer screening, 44 percent had mammograms, 62 percent had a PSA test, and 59 percent had a flu shot.

Researchers also asked the survey group whether they believed their health was controlled by chance, by their own means or by others. Among those who strongly felt health was up to chance, nearly 43 percent had no regular care provider. About 40 percent of those who felt internal means could control their health lacked a health provider and only 21 percent of those who felt others have control over their health lacked a health provider. Senior author Daniel E. Ford, M.D., M.P.H., indicated that such health beliefs likely affect most people's decision to seek preventive medical care.

A history of cancer in one or both parents did not influence the physicians' choice to have a regular health provider.

Klag cautions that these data are limited to graduates of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and may not apply to other doctors or the general population.
-end-
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program. Other authors were Lucy A. Mead, Sc.M.; and Ford of Hopkins; and Gross of Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn. Gross was a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at Hopkins when the study was conducted.

Related Links:
Johns Hopkins' Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research: http://www.med.jhu.edu/welchcenter/
American Medical Association: http://www.ama-assn.org

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions' news releases are available on an EMBARGOED basis on EurekAlert at http://www.eurekalert.org, and from the Office of Communications and Public Affairs' direct e-mail news release service. To enroll, call 410-955-4288 or send e-mail to bsimpkins@jhmi.edu.

Johns Hopkins Medicine

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.