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A survey of practice patterns and the health promotion and prevention attitudes of US chiropractors. Maintenance Care: Part I

      Abstract

      Objective: To investigate the primary care, health promotion activities associated with what has historically been called “maintenance care” (MC) as used in the practice of chiropractic in the United States. This includes issues such as investigating the purpose of MC, what conditions and patient populations it best serves, how frequently it is required, what therapeutic interventions constitute MC, how often it is recommended, and what percent of patient visits are for prevention and health promotion services. It also investigates the economic impact of these services. Design: Postal survey of a randomized sample of practicing US chiropractors. The questionnaire was structured with a 5-point ordinal Likert scale (28 questions) and brief fill-in questionnaire (12 questions). The 40-question survey was mailed to 1500 chiropractors selected at random from a pool of chiropractors with active practices in the United States. The National Directory of Chiropractic database was the source of actively practicing chiropractors from which doctor selection was made. The sample was derived by using the last numbers composing the zip codes assigned by the US Postal Service. This sampling method assured potential inclusion of chiropractors from all 50 states, from rural areas and large cities, and assured a sample weighting based on population density that might not have been afforded by a simple random sample. Results: Six hundred and fifty-eight (44%) of the questionnaires were completed and returned. US chiropractors agreed or strongly agreed that the purpose of MC was to optimize health (90%), prevent conditions from developing (88%), provide palliative care (86%), and minimize recurrence or exacerbations (95%). MC was viewed as helpful in preventing both musculoskeletal and visceral health problems. There was strong agreement that the therapeutic composition of MC placed virtually equal weight on exercise (96%) and adjustments/manipulation (97%) and that other interventions, including dietary recommendations (93%) and patient education about lifestyle changes (84%), shared a high level of importance. Seventy-nine percent of chiropractic patients have MC recommended to them and nearly half of those (34%) comply. The average number of recommended MC visits was 14.4 visits per year, and the total revenue represents an estimated 23% of practice income. Conclusions: Despite educational, philosophic, and political differences, US chiropractors come to a consensus about the purpose and composition of MC. Not withstanding the absence of scientific support, they believe that it is of value to all age groups and a variety of conditions from stress to musculoskeletal and visceral conditions. This strong belief in the preventive and health promotion value of MC motivates them to recommend this care to most patients. This, in turn, results in a high level of preventive services and income averaging an estimated $50,000 per chiropractic practice in 1994. The data suggest that the amount of services and income generated by preventive and health-promoting services may be second only to those from the treatment of low-back pain. The response from this survey also suggests that the level of primary care, health promotion and prevention activities of chiropractors surpasses that of other physicians. (J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2000;23:1–9)

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