When was the last time you saw a doctor? All right, wise guys, we understand you see docs in the emergency department (ED) daily, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We wanted to know when you last talked to a doctor about your health, and we don’t mean the attending on duty. We mean the turn-your-head-and-cough guy. Well, if you’re anything like us, we hypothesize it’s probably not very often.

Myth:„ Providers won’t walk into A PCP’s office unless they’re taking a chest-pain patient to the hospital.

What We Know

We surveyed individuals who re-registered with the National Registry in 2007 and asked them how long it_s been since their last visit„for a routine checkup. They had six options: within the past year, within the past two years, within the past five years, more than five years ago, unsure or no primary care physician (PCP) (see Figure 1).

We decided to look at these results by dichotomizing the information. When you dichotomize, you group choices together into two categories dependent on your judgment of what naturally fits together and what’s important. In our case, we categorized individuals as making regular visits (those who have been to PCP within the past two years) or irregular visits (those who have not visited their PCP within the last two years). It appears 87.1% of„EMS providers regularly see their PCP.

Next, we wanted to see if this differs by level and found out 86.4% of paramedics regularly visit a PCP, compared to 87.7% of EMT-basics. We also looked at gender differences, and it appears females are more likely to regularly visit a PCP.

Although this seems straightforward, we decided to dig a bit deeper into possible reasons why some„EMS providers don’t visit a PCP regularly. We assumed that if you work in„EMS, you have health insurance, but we didn’t know for sure. Therefore, we investigated to see how many„EMS providers reported having heath insurance, and then looked at how the lack of insurance influenced doctor visits.

It turns out that 6.3% of individuals in our sample don’t have health insurance, and 0.6% don’t know whether they have heath insurance. 87.8% of individuals with health insurance visited a PCP regularly. This decreases to 76.1% for individuals who don’t have insurance, and 84.2% for those who don’t know if they have health insurance.

What We Still Don’t Know„

Let’s talk about some of the finer points of this exercise. First, we can’t take credit for the survey questions used; we borrowed them from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a survey that’s administered by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the general population and has some great health-related questions. Go to„www.cdc.gov/brfss/index.htm to learn more. We threw a fancy new research word, “dichotomize,” at you, which can be used for many purposes, such as to simplify the presentation of our results. When you dichotomize variables, you have to be certain the categories you_re creating make sense. For example, assume we_re studying prehospital mortality and had the patient_s cause of death categorized as cardiac arrest, traumatic arrest or dead on arrival (DOA). You couldn_t dichotomize this variable by just placing patients who were DOA into either the cardiac arrest group or the traumatic arrest group. So, when doing research or reading research, make sure you understand how variables have been categorized and ask yourself if that categorization makes sense.

Let’s talk about the health insurance. It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that 6.3% of„EMS providers lack health insurance, and it’s a horrible injustice. However, we don’t know enough about the people who said they didn’t have insurance to make those claims. Perhaps they’re currently unemployed, or maybe they’re volunteers.

Finally, how often should you see your doctor? There’s an old saying that you should visit twice in your 20s, three times in your 30s, four times in your 40s and every year after you turn 50. Another good research project: Do distinct age groups in„EMS meet their recommended number of doctor visits? We don’t know, but maybe you could figure it out.

Verdict: Rejected.„ It looks like the overwhelming majority of us see our doctors regularly.