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Chiropractic Research Review

Rural DCs Seeing More Patients

Increased public interest in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has led to more studies on chiropractic patient and practice characteristics; relationships with other health care providers; distribution; and utilization.

Patients in rural areas may be more likely to present to chiropractors with nonmusculoskeletal complaints than their urban peers; some areas in the U.S. have been designated health professional shortage areas.

This study examined a national cross-section of 1,896 chiropractors through a mail survey to ascertain average practice volumes and waiting times, based on location of provider. DCs listed up to five counties in which they provided service, and were asked about: weekly practice hours; office visits; number of walk-ins; average wait times; and other pertinent data. These values were compared between rural locations, health professional shortage areas and urban locations.

Results: Nearly nine in 10 respondents (88%) reported treating patients in counties with health-professional shortages; 77% had patients from multiple counties; and 60% claimed to have patients from three or more counties. Compared to DCs in large metropolitan areas, DCs in extremely rural areas had higher-volume practices, seeing an average of 81 more new patients annually. These numbers increased for DCs serving in rural health professional shortage locations; such DCs averaged 127 more new patients annually, compared to non-shortage urban environments.

The authors note, "... it appears that chiropractic health care providers may already be serving in some function to fill the gap in health care system capacity in medically underserved or rural areas, or perhaps otherwise substituting for other types of health care services in response to specific patient demand in certain markets."

Smith M, Carber L. Chiropractic health care in health professional shortage areas in the United States. American Journal of Public Health 2002:92(12), pp. 2001-2009. www.ajph.org

Chiropractic Research Review

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