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Reducing demand for physician visits through public education: a look at the pilot cold-and-flu campaign in London, Ontario


Objective — To estimate the effect of the Ontario Ministry of Health's pilot public-education campaign launched in London, Ont., on Jan. 15, 1994, to reduce the number of visits to physicians' offices because of cold and flu symptoms.

Design — Before-after comparison of claims to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.

Outcome Measures — Physician billings for visits because of cold and flu symptoms and total billings for all types of visits during the 2 months before and after the start of the campaign, and during the same two periods in the previous year, in London and in the rest of Ontario.

Results — By the time the campaign was started, much of the cold and flu season was already over for that winter. Still, the decrease in billings for visits because of cold and flu symptoms in the 2 months after the campaign was introduced was 6% greater in London than in the rest of Ontario. There was virtually no difference in total billings between London and the rest of the province during the same period.

Conclusion — The modest relative reduction in physician billings for visits because of cold or flu symptoms in London following the introduction of the public-education campaign may have been due to the intervention as well as to other factors.



Brown EM, Goel V. CMAJ. 1996; 154(6):835-40.

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