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Itinerant surgical and medical specialist care in Kansas: report of a survey of rural hospital administrators

Kellerman, R., Ast, T., Dorsch, J., Frisch, L.
Journal of rural health 2001 v.17 no.2 pp. 127-130
surgery, medical treatment, hospitals, rural areas, surveys, Kansas
In most rural areas, specialist nonprimary care, when available, is provided by "itinerant" physicians and surgeons who periodically visit from a distant home base. Little is known about current usage and acceptability of itinerant specialists in rural communities. Administrators of hospitals in rural and frontier Kansas counties were asked to report the frequency of itinerant care in their facilities, the home base of each specialist and a listing of procedures performed during specialist visits. Administrators were also asked to respond on a Likert scale to six questions inviting their assessment of itinerant care. Responses were received from 53 of 56 hospitals. All offered at least one monthly session of itinerant medical or surgical care. The most common specialties represented were cardiology (in 87 percent of hospitals), urology (68 percent), orthopedics (68 percent) and radiology (60 percent). General surgeons consulted in over 80 percent of responding hospitals. Psychiatrists, dermatologists and neurologists were rarely available in the hospitals surveyed. Administrators generally rated itinerant care highly, though some expressed concern about revenue lost when specialists performed procedures in their home-base office or hospital. No associations were found between amount of care offered and potential explanatory variables such as hospital size, distance from subregional centers, or percentage of patients hospitalized locally. Further study is needed to better understand differences in itinerant specialist utilization and acceptance among rural Kansas hospitals. Because Kansas demographics are similar to those of many other American rural areas, such study may offer insights applicable to other regions.