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The Somatic Connection  |   April 2012
Osteopathic Health Care Not Used by All Patients
Article Information
The Somatic Connection   |   April 2012
Osteopathic Health Care Not Used by All Patients
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, April 2012, Vol. 112, 160-161. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2012.112.4.160
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, April 2012, Vol. 112, 160-161. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2012.112.4.160
Licciardone JC, Singh KP. Sociodemographic and geographic characteristics associated with patient visits to osteopathic physicians for primary care. BMC Health Serv Res. 2011;11:303. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6963/11/303. Accessed March 26, 2012.  
“The Somatic Connection” has been educating readers of JAOA—The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association about articles from other peer-reviewed professional journals that report on the health benefits of osteopathic health care, especially osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT). However, little is known about which patient populations actually access osteopathic care. As more and more research studies demonstrate the efficacy and effectiveness of OMT, will patients actually obtain access to this care? Researchers at The Osteopathic Research Center in Texas mined data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (2002-2006) to study the sociodemographic and geographic characteristics associated with patient visits to osteopathic physicians (ie, DOs) for primary care in part to answer this question, as well as to assess potential for growth, education, and service. 
The authors found that “overall, 134,369 ambulatory medical care visits were surveyed, representing 4.6 billion ± 220 million (SE [standard error]) patient visits.” Osteopathic physicians provided 336 million (30 million) (7%) of these patient visits, of which 217 million (21 million) (10%) were for primary care services. This total entailed 180 million (17 million) primary care visits (12%) for adults (aged 21 years or older) and 37 million (5 million) primary care visits (5%) for minors. Although patients seeking primary care in family and general medicine accessed DO health care more so than allopathic (ie, MD) health care (odds ratio [OR], 6.03; 95% confidence interval [CI], 4.67-7.78), patients seeking care in internal medicine (OR, 0.37; 95% CI, 0.24-0.58) or pediatrics (OR, 0.21; 95% CI, 0.11-0.40) most often sought allopathic services. Additionally, geriatric populations, blacks, Hispanics, and patients in the western and southern regions of the United States used osteopathic care less often than allopathic care. 
Licciardone and Singh concluded that although white adults seeking family or general medical care in the Midwest and in the Northeast use osteopathic health care services, there is room for growth with other age groups, ethnic populations, and patients in other regions of the United States. The osteopathic medical profession is expanding rapidly, with new colleges in the western and southern regions of the United States. An increase in the number of DOs in these regions will obviously increase access to osteopathic medical care; however, education regarding the benefits of osteopathic care would increase its value and inspire patients to seek a DO in their community. In addition, clinical research (including outcomes studies using practice-based research networks of osteopathic physicians) that assess the benefits of OMT for patients in the western and southern United States, with patients of ethnically diverse populations spanning all age groups, should also help to increase access of care for these services.—M.A.S. 
   Editor's Note: “The Somatic Connection” is published quarterly. It will next appear in the July issue of JAOA—The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.