1. Duffrin, Christopher PhD
  2. Jackson, Natalie MPH
  3. Whetstone, Lauren PhD
  4. Cummings, Doyle PharmD
  5. Watson, Ricky MD, MSPH
  6. Wu, Qiang PhD


Context: Community health centers (CHCs) were created in the mid-1960s to expand access to care in impoverished and underserved areas. The number of CHC sites has more than tripled in eastern North Carolina from 28 primary care centers in 2000 to 89 in 2010.


Objective: This study determined the perceptions of physicians on the impact of CHC expansion on the local practice environment.


Design: Descriptive statistics and correlations were used to compare responses regarding perceptions and differences between practice characteristics as well as physician ratios by year. Both CHC and private practice physician addresses were mapped using ArcGIS.


Setting and Participants: Surveys were sent to 1422 (461 returns/32.5% response rate) primary care physicians residing in 43 predominantly rural eastern North Carolina counties.


Results: A large percentage of the respondents (82.7%) affirmed that they felt neutral or did not view CHCs to be competitors, whereas a minority (17%) did view them to be difficult to compete against. Forty-two percent of private practice respondents disagreed that CHCs offer a wider range of services despite significantly more CHC physicians than private practice respondents indicating that their facility provided basic services.


Conclusion: The CHCs were perceived to offer a wider range of services, employ more staff, and have more practice locations than private practices. However, private practice physicians did not perceive CHCs to have a competitive advantage or to unfairly impact their practices, possibly due to inconsistent population growth in relation to the physician retention during the last 10 years.