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Health Serv Res. 1992 Aug;27(3):361-84.

Hospitalization style of physicians in Manitoba: the disturbing lack of logic in medical practice.

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  • 1Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada.


Variations in hospital admission rates across small areas are ubiquitous, and it is increasingly assumed that high rates result from physicians' discretionary decisions. Data for elderly patients from the health insurance system of Manitoba were used to construct an index that divided physicians into four groups based on their propensity to admit patients to the hospital. I then determined whether physicians who are more prone to admit patients use hospitals for more discretionary purposes and admit patients who are less ill. Although the differences between physicians with different practice styles were in the expected direction, the most compelling finding was the similarity in characteristics of patients admitted by physicians with markedly different practice styles. Such findings suggest a very wide latitude in physicians' decisions to admit patients; this latitude is not well captured by a model that posits a logical relationship between physician treatment patterns and patient need.

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