Study profiles women's use of healthcare

October 1, 2001

Pharmaceutical Representative

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examines women's use of ambulatory medical care in 1997 and 1998, and finds that their care differs from men in many significant ways. Even excluding pregnancy-related visits, women were 33% more likely than men to visit a doctor, although this difference decreased with age. The rate of doctor visits for such reasons as annual examinations and preventive services was 100% higher for women than for men, and medication patterns differed significantly. Women were not only more likely to receive hormones, but also dramatically more likely to have an antidepressant prescribed.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examines women's use of ambulatory medical care in 1997 and 1998, and finds that their care differs from men in many significant ways. Even excluding pregnancy-related visits, women were 33% more likely than men to visit a doctor, although this difference decreased with age. The rate of doctor visits for such reasons as annual examinations and preventive services was 100% higher for women than for men, and medication patterns differed significantly. Women were not only more likely to receive hormones, but also dramatically more likely to have an antidepressant prescribed.

"In order to fully deal with any health problem, we have to look at how it affects everyone who suffers from it - not just one gender, race or ethnic group, but all of us," said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.

"Utilization of Ambulatory Medical Care by Women: United States, 1997-98," from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, describes the 500 million ambulatory medical care visits to doctors' offices and hospital outpatient and emergency departments made each year by women 15 years of age and older. The report covers patient characteristics such as age, race and insurance coverage, and healthcare provider characteristics, including place and type of care.

"It's important to understand the way women use healthcare in America," said Yvonne Green, director of the CDC's Office of Women's Health, "so that healthcare providers can be prepared and programs developed to meet women's special healthcare needs."

Among the highlights of the report:


•Â On average, women made about 4.6 visits per year in 1997-98, ranging from 3.8 for those age 15 to 44 to about double that for those 65 and older.


•Â Visits by younger women were more likely to be to primary care physicians and emergency departments, while older women were more likely to see specialists.


•Â Compared with white women, black women had higher rates of visits for hypertension, diabetes and complications of pregnancy.


•Â More than four out of five ambulatory medical care visits were made to office-based physicians; the rest were about equally divided between hospital outpatient and emergency departments.


•Â The most common diagnostic or screening service for women was blood pressure screening, which was performed in over half of all visits. Pelvic exams and urinalysis were each performed during about 14% of visits. The rate of mammography was about 29% lower for women 65 and over than for women 45 to 64 years of age.


•Â Among the major classes of drugs, those most frequently prescribed for women were drugs for the cardiovascular-renal and central nervous systems, as well as hormones.


•Â The most frequent sources of payment for ambulatory care visits by women were private insurance (50%), Medicare (22%) and Medicaid (9%). The proportion of visits covered by private insurance among white women was 1.3 times that of black women. In contrast, the proportion of ambulatory visits by black women covered by Medicaid was more than three times as high as the proportion of Medicaid visits by white women.

The CDC conducts annual surveys of physician visits to office-based practices and to hospital outpatient and emergency departments as part of its National Health Care Survey, which also covers hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and home healthcare. PR