Pediatrician visits declining in the US, study finds

Visits to the pediatrician have dropped among U.S. children with commercial insurance, according to a study in JAMA Pediatrics.

Researchers studied insurance claims data from 2008 through 2016 for children, 17 years and younger. They examined more than 71 million pediatric primary care visits.

They found primary care visit rates declined by 14.4 percent during the study period.

Researchers also found that problem-based visits, that is visits for illnesses and injuries, decreased by 24 percent. However, among problem-based visits, psychiatric and behavioral health visits increased by 42 percent.

In addition, preventive care visits increased by nearly 10 percent between 2008 and 2016.

"The trend is likely a combination of both positive and negative changes," said study lead author Kristin Ray, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

"For example, if families avoid bringing their kids in because of worry about high copays and deductibles, that's very concerning. But if this is the result of better preventive care keeping kids healthier or perhaps more physician offices providing advice over the phone to support parents caring for kids at home when they've got minor colds or stomach bugs, that's a good thing," she said.

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