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J Am Board Fam Med. 2008 Sep-Oct;21(5):441-50. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2008.05.080054.

Comprehending care in a medical home: a usual source of care and patient perceptions about healthcare communication.

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  • 1Department of Family Medicine, University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, Knoxville, TN, USA.



To examine whether having a usual source of care (USC) is associated with positive patient perceptions of health care communication and to identify demographic factors among patients with a USC that are independently associated with differing reports of how patients perceive their involvement in health care decision making.


Cross-sectional analyses of nationally representative data from the 2002 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Among adults with a health care visit in the past year (n = approximately 16,700), we measured independent associations between having a USC and patient perceptions of health care communication. Second, among respondents with a USC (n = approximately 18,000), we assessed the independent association between various demographic factors and indicators of patients' perceptions of their autonomy in making health care decisions.


Approximately 78% of adults in the United States reported having a USC. Those with a USC were more likely to report that providers always listened to them, always explained things clearly, always showed respect, and always spent enough time with them. Patients who perceived higher levels of decision-making autonomy were non-Hispanic, had health insurance coverage, lived in rural areas, and had higher incomes.


Patients with a USC were more likely to perceive positive health care interactions. Certain demographic factors among the subgroups of Medical Expenditure Panel Survey respondents with a USC were associated with patient perceptions of greater decision-making autonomy. Efforts to ensure universal access to a USC must be partnered with broader awareness and training of USC providers to engage patients from various demographic backgrounds equally when making health care decisions at the point of care.

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