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Sociol Health Illn. 2006 Nov;28(7):951-68.

The role of etiquette and experimentation in explaining how doctors change behaviour: a qualitative study.

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King's College, London, London SE11 6SP.


Despite increasing interest over the last 30 years in individual variations in clinical practice, various research studies have thrown only limited light on either understanding or changing doctors' behaviour. This qualitative study explored a sample of British general practitioners' accounts of the influences on their prescribing, and identified the locus of the problem in their defence of professional identity through clinical autonomy, a tactic that precluded use of more customary change agents such as line management and economic incentives. The study identified two mechanisms, clinical etiquette and clinical experimentation, however, that enabled change to occur within the constraints imposed by the commitment to clinical autonomy.

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