Resolving disagreements in the patient-physician relationship: tools for improving communication in managed care

JAMA. 1999 Oct 20;282(15):1477-83. doi: 10.1001/jama.282.15.1477.


Managed care uses financial incentives and restrictions on tests and procedures to attempt to influence physician decision making and limit costs. Increasingly, the public is questioning whether physicians are truly making decisions based on the patient's best interest or are unduly influenced by economic incentives. These circumstances lead to the potential for disagreements and conflict in the patient-physician relationship. We convened a group of individuals in October 1998, including patient representatives, leaders from health care organizations, practicing physicians, communication experts, and medical ethicists, to articulate the types of disagreements emerging in the patient-physician relationship as a result of managed care. We addressed 3 specific scenarios physicians may encounter, including allocation, illustrated by a patient who is referred to a different ophthalmologist based on a new arrangement in the physician's group; access, illustrated by a patient who wishes to see his own physician for a same-day visit rather than a nurse specialist; and financial incentives, illustrated by a patient who expects to have a test performed and a physician who does not believe the test is necessary but is afraid the patient will think the physician is not ordering the test because of financial incentives. Using these scenarios, we suggest communication strategies that physicians can use to decrease the potential for disagreements. In addition, we propose strategies that health plans or physician groups can use to alleviate or resolve these disagreements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Disclosure
  • Dissent and Disputes
  • Gatekeeping*
  • Group Processes
  • Health Care Rationing
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Managed Care Programs / economics
  • Managed Care Programs / standards*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Reimbursement, Incentive
  • Resource Allocation
  • Trust*
  • United States