Context: Although having a usual source of care has been associated with cancer screening, whether there is additional benefit from continuity with a specific physician is uncertain. In addition, little is known about the relationship between continuity of care and receipt of colorectal and prostate cancer screening.
Methods: Subjects were enrolled in a Washington State health plan that operates an integrated delivery system that emphasizes access to primary care. Among patients age 50–78 years old with 2 or more primary care visits in 2002–2003 (N = 67,633), we determined whether higher continuity (≥50% of visits with the most visited primary care provider) was associated with colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer screening. Random-effects logistic regression estimated adjusted percentages of patients who received fecal occult blood testing, lower endoscopy (sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy), screening mammography, and prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing.
Results: Patients with higher continuity were more likely to receive fecal occult blood testing than patients with lower continuity (28.9% vs. 26.8%; P < 0.001) but less likely to receive lower endoscopy (12.9% vs. 14.3%; P < 0.001). Although higher continuity was not significantly associated with screening mammography (P = 0.38), men with higher continuity were more likely to receive PSA testing than men with lower continuity (39.4% vs. 37.4%; P = 0.008).
Conclusions: In an insured population with a high degree of primary care access, continuity with a specific primary care physician was associated with the selection of less invasive colorectal cancer screening tests by patients and physicians and greater likelihood of PSA testing.
From the *Department of Family and Community Medicine and Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, California; †Center for Health Studies and Department of Preventive Medicine, Group Health Cooperative, Seattle, Washington; and Departments of ‡Medicine, Epidemiology, and §Family Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.
Supported by the National Cancer Institute (U19CA79689 and KO5 CA 104699) and American Cancer Society Mentored Research Scholars Grant (MRSGT-05-214-01-CPPB).
Reprints: Joshua Fenton, MD, MPH, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of California, Davis, 4860 Y Street, Suite 2300, Sacramento, CA 95817. E-mail: Joshua.firstname.lastname@example.org.