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Arch Intern Med. 1998 Aug 10-24;158(15):1626-32.

Effects of managed care on physician-patient relationships, quality of care, and the ethical practice of medicine: a physician survey.

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MCP Hahnemann School of Medicine, Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, USA.



Survey studies have shown that physicians believe managed care is having significant impact on many of their professional obligations.


Primary care physicians were asked about the impact of managed care on: (1) physician-patient relationships, (2) the ability of physicians to carry out their professional ethical obligations, and (3) quality of patient care. In 1996 we surveyed 1011 primary care physicians in Pennsylvania. The survey group's responses were graded on a Likert scale. Space was provided for respondents to include written comments. The SPSS statistical software (SPSS Inc, Chicago, Ill) was used to analyze the data.


The response rate was 55%. Most respondents indicated that under managed care physicians are less able to avoid conflicts of interest and less able to place the best interests of patients first. The majority responded that quality of health care is compromised by limitations in location of diagnostic tests, length of hospital stay, and choice of specialists. A significant minority (27%-49%) noted a decrease in the physician's ability to carry out ethical obligations, to respect patient autonomy, and to respect confidentiality in physician-patient communication. Most physicians expressed that managed care made no impact on ability to obtain informed consent or to provide information. There were small but statistically significant sex differences, with female physicians more negative toward managed care.


Many physicians surveyed believe managed care has significant negative effects on the physician-patient relationship, the ability to carry out ethical obligations, and on quality of patient care. These results have implications for health care system reform efforts.

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