OBJECTIVE. Our objective with this study was to assess the extent to which patients who are seen by practitioners in Pediatric Research in Office Settings, a national primary care practice–based research network, are representative of those who are seen in ambulatory office–based pediatric primary care in the United States.
METHODS. Pediatric Research in Office Settings patient data were collected from the offices of 57 randomly selected network practitioners as part of an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality–funded effort to describe primary care visits and replicate the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey in primary care practice–based research networks. These data were from 1706 randomly selected pediatric patient visits that occurred between March and June 2002. National comparison data were 948 randomly selected pediatric patient visits that occurred between March and June 2000 in the offices of the 33 primary care pediatric practitioners who had participated in the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. The groups were compared on patient demographics (age, gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, as represented by Medicaid status), visit characteristics (percentages of patients referred, practitioner designation of visit as acute versus nonacute, and continuity of care), the top patient/parent-articulated reasons for visit, and the top practitioner diagnoses.
RESULTS. Comparisons revealed substantial similarities between Pediatric Research in Office Settings and national data, including gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and visit characteristics. Differences were noted for age and race, with Pediatric Research in Office Settings children approximately 1 year older and comprising a significantly lower proportion of black patients than their National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey counterparts. Although the top 6 reasons that were articulated by parents for outpatient visits in the 2 groups were remarkably similar in rank order and proportions, there were overall differences, mostly attributable to a larger number of the “other” category in the Pediatric Research in Office Settings cases. There were no significant differences among the top 5 practitioner visit diagnoses between the Pediatric Research in Office Settings and National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey data.
CONCLUSIONS. The Pediatric Research in Office Settings patient population is reasonably representative of patients who are seen in US ambulatory office-based pediatric primary care practices; therefore, the Pediatric Research in Office Settings is an appropriate laboratory for studies of care in such settings.