Previous research has shown that having a 'usual' source of care, and especially a usual provider, is associated with better health and health care outcomes. Noting the positive association between having a 'usual' provider and health, Healthy People 2020 made linking people with 'usual' providers a federal priority. However, little is known about how patients who see multiple providers determine which provider is their ‘usual’ one. Understanding how patients make this designation is important because the overarching role of 'usual' providers is to monitor patients’ overall well-being. Yet, not all providers are prepared to meet these needs. Studies have found that although specialists may provide more appropriate care in their areas of expertise, they may be less likely to provide quality care in other areas compared to generalists. Therefore, the provider that patients designate as their usual provider may impact the overall type and quality of the health care received. Additionally, understanding the process patients use to determine which of their providers their usual one is can provide insight into the interactions between patients and providers as well as changes in the structure of the health care system.
This research utilizes two methods to examine the patient determination of their usual providers. First, an analysis of publicly available survey data will examine the health, disability, and sociodemographic factors associated with generalist or specialist usual provider type. Second, a semi-structured interview guide will be developed and pilot tested to examine the process by which people who have multiple providers determine which is their ‘usual’ one. Together, these projects will result in a better understanding of the relationships between health providers and patients. This line of research will eventually lead to policy and program recommendations for providers, patients, and researchers that will improve patient-provider relationships, leading to better health and health care outcomes.
The Who's 'Usual'? project is funded by a grant from the UNH College of Health and Human Services Research Support Initiative.