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A cross-national comparison of physician utilization by the socioeconomic status groups Vohlonen, Ilkka Juhani

Abstract

This study is a part of a three stage pursuit to examine and to comprehend the relationship between the resources available, the apparent utilization patterns of those resources by the population being served, and the selected characteristics of the populations utilizing and not utilizing the prevailing medical care system. The first stage of the research involves the examination of the existing patterns of medical care utilization by socioeconomic status groups. Cross-national Comparison of Physician Utilization by the Socioeconomic Status Groups is the pilot research for the first stage and both modifies and develops the methodology for this type of research and also examines the physician utilization patterns of a population in well defined basic measurements — in this case the socioeconomic status index, the diagnosed disease, and the number of physician contacts. The comparison of the physician utilization patterns of socioeconomic status groups in respect to the prevailing medical care delivery system necessarily involves cross-area studies at least at regional level, but most likely cross-national comparisons as well. This study used already collected data, nevertheless, primary data, which had been collected and partly analysed in the World Health Organization/International Collaborative Study of Medical Care Utilization. The data came from twelve geographical areas, altogether from seven countries, and provided documented research material on the surveyed respondents' social characteristics, standard diagnostic procedures, and standard definitions of the interactions between the users and the prevailing medical care delivery systems. The social characteristics were used separately, but in a standardized way, in order to derive socioeconomic status groups in each area; the diseases distributions were examined in relationship to the socioeconomic status groups, and the physician utilization patterns were related to the socioeconomic status groups while controlling for the distributions of selected diseases, after which the study areas were compared to each other in terms of the exhibited relationships between the physician utilization and the socioeconomic status groups. The physician utilization patterns were found to vary only little from one area to another, however, consistently, to warrant the use of derived information for the second stage of the research. Physician utilizations were very weakly correlated to the socioeconomic status and these correlations were not substantially effected by the selection of the controlling disease, i.e., they were consistent.

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