To examine what role demographic factors and increases in physician fees and utilization played in the rise in costs of physician services provided for elderly people in Quebec between 1982 and 1992, and to investigate changes in patterns of care (type and amount of services) related to utilization.
Retrospective study of population-based data.
Province of Quebec.
Elderly people (65 years of age and over) in Quebec in 1982 (n = 589,800) and in 1992 (n = 803,600).
Proportion of the increase in physician care costs attributable to (a) aging (defined as a shift in the age distribution) of the elderly population, (b) the increase in the size of the elderly population, (c) the increase in physician fees and (d) the increase in utilization of physician services; proportion of care provided by general practitioners (GPs) and by specialists; proportion of minor and complete examinations provided by GPs; and rates of hospital admissions and surgery.
Aging was responsible for 0.5% of the increase in physician care costs between 1982 and 1992, population growth for 27.0% and the increase in physician fees for 25.5%. The increased utilization accounted for 47.0% of the total cost increase. Analyses of the utilization data revealed a shift toward more costly services, more visits to specialists and higher rates of hospital admissions and surgery in 1992 than in 1982.
Aging and population growth had minor effects on the increase in physician care costs between 1982 and 1992. Increased utilization was the most important factor. The appropriateness of this trend needs to be verified.
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