Primary Care Physician Practice Styles and Patient Care: Evidence from Physician Exits in Medicare
Primary care physicians (PCPs) provide frontline health care to patients in the U.S.; however, it is unclear how their practice styles affect patient care. In this paper, we estimate the long-lasting effects of PCP practice styles on patient health care utilization by focusing on Medicare patients affected by PCP relocations or retirements, which we refer to as “exits.” Observing where patients receive care after these exits, we estimate event studies to compare patients who switch to PCPs with different practice style intensities. We find that PCPs have large effects on a range of aggregate utilization measures, including physician and outpatient spending and the number of diagnosed conditions. Moreover, we find that PCPs have large effects on the quality of care that patients receive, and that all of these effects persist for several years. Our results suggest that switching to higher-quality PCPs could significantly affect patients’ longer-run health outcomes.