The Journal of Rural Health 13:306-319, 1997.
The local supply of physicians has a strong influence on the availability and the quality of services provided by rural hospitals. Nevertheless, there are no published studies that describe the composition of rural hospital medical staffs and, in particular, the availability of specialists on these staffs. This study uses 1991 and 1994 survey data from rural hospitals located in eight states to describe the specialty composition and factors that influence the presence of specialists on rural hospital medical staffs. The results show a strong, positive association between the level of medical staff specialization in rural hospitals and the level of medical specialization of their closet rural neighbors, which suggests there is competition among rural hospitals based on the composition of the hospital medical staff. Analysis by specialty type, however, indicates that the degree of competition may differ for different types of specialists.