Background: With the growth of managed care, there are increasing concerns but inconclusive evidence regarding deterioration in the quality of medical care.
Objectives: To assess physicians' perceptions of their ability to provide high-quality care and explore what factors, including managed care, affect these perceptions.
Research design: Bivariate and multivariate analyses of the Community Tracking Study Physician Survey, a cross-sectional, nationally representative telephone survey of 12,385 patient-care physicians conducted in 1996/1997. The response rate was 65%.
Participants: Physicians who provide direct patient care for > or =20 h/wk, excluding federal employees and those in selected specialties.
Measures: Level of agreement with 4 statements: 1 regarding overall ability to provide high-quality care and 3 regarding aspects of care delivery associated with quality.
Results: Between 21% and 31% of physicians disagreed with the quality statements. Specialists were generally 50% more likely than primary care physicians to express concerns about their ability to provide quality care. Generally, the number of managed care contracts, but not the percent of practice revenue from managed care, was negatively associated with perceived quality. Market-level managed care penetration independently affected physicians' perceptions. Practice setting affected perceptions of quality, with physicians in group settings less likely to express concerns than physicians in solo and 2-physician practices. Specific financial incentives and care management tools had limited positive or negative associations with perceived quality.
Conclusions: Managed care involvement is only modestly associated with reduced perceptions of quality among physicians, with some specific tools enhancing perceived quality. Physicians may be able to moderate some negative effects of managed care by altering their practice arrangements.