Geographic differences in community oncology provider and practice location characteristics in the central United States

J Rural Health. 2022 Apr 5. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12663. Online ahead of print.


PURPOSE: How care delivery influences urban-rural disparities in cancer outcomes is unclear. We sought to understand community oncologists’ practice settings to inform cancer care delivery interventions.

METHODS: We conducted secondary analysis of a national dataset of providers billing Medicare from June 1, 2019 to May 31, 2020 in 13 states in the central United States. We used Kruskal-Wallis rank and Fisher’s exact tests to compare physician characteristics and practice settings among rural and urban community oncologists.

FINDINGS: We identified 1,963 oncologists practicing in 1,492 community locations; 67.5% practiced in exclusively urban locations, 11.3% in exclusively rural locations, and 21.1% in both rural and urban locations. Rural-only, urban-only, and urban-rural spanning oncologists practice in an average of 1.6, 2.4, and 5.1 different locations, respectively. A higher proportion of rural community sites were solo practices (11.7% vs 4.0%, P<.001) or single specialty practices (16.4% vs 9.4%, P<.001); and had less diversity in training environments (86.5% vs 67.8% with <2 medical schools represented, P<.001) than urban community sites. Rural multispecialty group sites were less likely to include other cancer specialists.

CONCLUSIONS: We identified 2 potentially distinct styles of care delivery in rural communities, which may require distinct interventions: (1) innovation-isolated rural oncologists, who are more likely to be solo providers, provide care at few locations, and practice with doctors with similar training experiences; and (2) urban-rural spanning oncologists who provide care at a high number of locations and have potential to spread innovation, but may face high complexity and limited opportunity for care standardization.

PMID:35384064 | DOI:10.1111/jrh.12663