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Keywords:

  • primary care physicians;
  • professionalism;
  • quality;
  • rural;
  • urban

Abstract

Purpose

We evaluated whether primary care physicians (PCPs) from urban and rural practices differ on attitudes and behaviors related to quality improvement (QI) activities, patient relationships, and professionalism/self-regulation.

Methods

Data from a national survey that assessed physician attitudes and behaviors based on the Physician Charter on Medical Professionalism were used. Of the 1,891 survey respondents, N = 840 were PCPs (n = 274 family medicine (response rate = 67.5%); n = 257 general internal medicine (60.8%); and n = 309 pediatricians (72.7%)). Using Rural-Urban Commuting Area (RUCA) codes, PCPs were classified as urban and rural according to their practice ZIP code.

Findings

A total of n = 691 physicians were urban and n = 127 rural. Attitudes regarding participating in QI did not differ by practice location; however, rural PCPs were more likely to have reviewed an other physician's records for QI than urban PCPs (65.6% vs 48.0%, P < .001). Rural physicians were more likely to agree that physicians should talk with their patients about the cost of care than urban PCPs (40.5% vs 29.2%, P = .02). While all PCPs endorsed attitudes regarding the importance of professional behaviors (eg, reporting impaired/incompetent colleagues, disclosing medical errors) at generally similar levels, their behaviors differed. More rural physicians had a personal knowledge of an impaired/incompetent physician than urban physicians (20.7% vs 12.7%, P = .02).

Conclusions

PCPs from rural and urban areas share similar attitudes regarding the importance of participating in QI and fulfilling professional responsibilities. However, certain behaviors (eg, knowledge of impaired colleagues) do differ. These results should be confirmed in larger studies of rural PCPs.