The visiting specialist model of rural health care delivery: a survey in Massachusetts

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Family Medicine and Community Health; Department of Orthopedics

Publication Date


Document Type



Adult; Female; Health Care Surveys; Health Services Accessibility; Hospitals, Rural; Humans; Male; Massachusetts; Medically Underserved Area; Middle Aged; Personnel Staffing and Scheduling; Rural Health Services; Specialties, Medical


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Preventive Medicine | Primary Care


CONTEXT: Hospitals in rural communities may seek to increase specialty care access by establishing clinics staffed by visiting specialists.

PURPOSE: To examine the visiting specialist care delivery model in Massachusetts, including reasons specialists develop secondary rural practices and distances they travel, as well as their degree of satisfaction and intention to continue the visiting arrangement.

METHODS: Visiting specialists at 11 rural hospitals were asked to complete a mailed survey.

FINDINGS: Visiting specialists were almost evenly split between the medical (54%) and surgical (46%) specialties, with ophthalmology, nephrology, and obstetrics/gynecology the most common specialties reported. A higher proportion of visiting specialists than specialists statewide were male (P = .001). Supplementing their patient base and income were the most important reasons visiting specialists reported for having initiated an ancillary clinic. There was a significant negative correlation between a hospital's number of staffed beds and the total number of visiting specialists it hosted (r =-0.573, P = .032); study hospitals ranged in bed size from 15 to 129.

CONCLUSIONS: The goal of matching supply of health care services with demand has been elusive. Visiting specialist clinics may represent an element of a market structure that expands access to needed services in rural areas. They should be included in any enumeration of physician availability.

DOI of Published Version



J Rural Health. 2006 Fall;22(4):294-9. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The Journal of rural health : official journal of the American Rural Health Association and the National Rural Health Care Association

Related Resources

Link to article in PubMed

PubMed ID