Poverty and InequalitySexual and Reproductive HealthFamily, Maternal & Child HealthMethodology

Using a Mystery-Caller Approach to Examine Access to Prostate Cancer Care in Philadelphia

TitleUsing a Mystery-Caller Approach to Examine Access to Prostate Cancer Care in Philadelphia
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsPollack, CE, Ross, ME, Armstrong, K, Branas, CC, Rhodes, KV, Bekelman, JE, Wentz, A, Stillson, C, Radhakrishnan, A, Oyeniran, E, Grande, D
JournalPLoS One
ISBN Number1932-6203
Accession Number27723780

PURPOSE: Prior work suggests that access to health care may influence the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer. Mystery-caller methods have been used previously to measure access to care for health services such as primary care, where patients' self-initiate requests for care. We used a mystery-caller survey for specialized prostate cancer care to assess dimensions of access to prostate cancer care. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We created an inventory of urology and radiation oncology practices in southeastern Pennsylvania. Using a 'mystery caller' approach, a research assistant posing as a medical office scheduler in a primary care office, attempted to make a new patient appointment on behalf of a referred patient. Linear regression was used to determine the association between time to next available appointment with practice and census tract characteristics. RESULTS: We successfully obtained information on new patient appointments from 198 practices out of the 223 in the region (88.8%). Radiation oncology practices were more likely to accept Medicaid compared to urology practices (91.3% vs 36.4%) and had shorter mean wait times for new patient appointments (9.0 vs 12.8 days). We did not observe significant differences in wait times according to census tract characteristics including neighborhood socioeconomic status and the proportion of male African American residents. CONCLUSIONS: Mystery-caller methods that reflect real-world referral processes from primary care offices can be used to measure access to specialized cancer care. We observed significant differences in wait times and insurance acceptance between radiation oncology and urology practices.