Using a mystery-caller approach to examine access to prostate cancer care in Philadelphia

Craig Evan Pollack, Michelle E. Ross, Katrina Armstrong, Charles C. Branas, Karin V. Rhodes, Justin E. Bekelman, Alicia Wentz, Christian Stillson, Archana Radhakrishnan, Enny Oyeniran, David Grande

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0164411
JournalPloS one
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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