An analysis of returning patients in family practice.
Morbidity records from eight practices participating for three years in the Virginia Family Practice Data System are analyzed with respect to two mutually exclusive groups of patients: those who return from one year to the next and those who do not return. Initially, substantial interpractice variation in patient return rates is presented, and age and sex characteristics of these patients are examined. The data indicate that approximately 40 percent of patients visiting the practice in one year return in the next, 25 percent return in each of two subsequent years, and only 12 percent return two years hence. Returning patients are found to be significantly older and more likely to be female than non-returning patients. These two groups of patients are then compared in terms of recorded morbidity and workload rates. Specific categories of problems, such as Diseases of the Circulatory System, are associated with returning patients. This paper thus presents empirical evidence which supports common assumptions concerning patients and problems seen in family practice.
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