People with HIV are living longer and their care has shifted towards the prevention and management of comorbidities. However, little is known about who is providing their care. Our objective was to characterize the provision of HIV care in Ontario by physician specialty.
We conducted a retrospective population-based observational study using linked administrative databases in Ontario, Canada, a single payer health care system. All Ontarians with HIV were identified using a validated case ascertainment algorithm. We examined office-based health care visits for this cohort between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2012. Physician characteristics were compared between specialty groups. We stratified the frequency and distribution of physician care into three categories: (a) care by physician specialty (family physicians, internal medicine specialists, infectious disease specialists, and other specialists), (b) care based on physician caseload (low, medium or high categorized as ≤5, 6-49 or ≥50 HIV patients per physician), and (c) care that is related to HIV versus unrelated to HIV.
Family physicians were older, graduated earlier, were more often female, and were the only group practicing in rural settings. Unlike other specialists, most family physicians (76.8%) had low-volume caseloads. There were 406,411 outpatient visits made by individuals with HIV; one-third were for HIV care. Family physicians provided the majority of care (53.6% of all visits and 53.9% of HIV visits). Internal medicine specialists provided 4.9% of all visits and 9.6% of HIV visits. Infectious disease specialists provided 12.5% of all visits and 32.7% of HIV visits. Other specialties provided 29.0% of visits; most of these (33.0%) were to psychiatrists.
The distribution of visits to physicians caring for HIV patients reveals different patterns of health care delivery by specialty and HIV caseload. Further research should delineate how specialties share care for this population and how different patterns relate to quality of care.