Managed care in the doctor's office: has the revolution stalled?

Am J Manag Care. 2001 Nov;7(11):1061-7.


Objective: To assess trends in the involvement of US physicians with managed care.

Study design: Comparison of data from 2 consecutive rounds of a national survey.

Methods: Longitudinal data were obtained from the 1996/1997 (n = 12,528) and the 1998/1999 (n = 12,304) rounds of the Community Tracking Study (CTS) Physician Survey, a large, ongoing nationally representative survey of US physicians involved in patient care. Indicators used to assess involvement with managed care included global measures of managed care participation, risk contracting, exposure to financial incentives, and impact of care management tools. Changes in these measures over the 2 study periods are reported. Analyses were conducted for all physicians, as well as for primary care physicians (PCPs) and specialists separately.

Results: The percentage of practice revenue derived from managed care increased only modestly over the study period (from 42% to 45%). Mean numbers of managed care contracts per physician increased minimally (from 12 to 13). Trends in acceptance of capitation and exposure to financial incentives remained stable over the study period. Among PCPs, employment in staff/group health maintenance organizations declined slightly, whereas gatekeeping function increased modestly. Among care management tools, only treatment guidelines had a significantly increased impact on medical practice, primarily among PCPs (from 46% to 52%; P < .001).

Conclusions: Many aspects of managed care leveled off between 1996 and 1999 in ways not accurately reflected by plan enrollment patterns. This "flattening of the curve" trend appears to hold generally across multiple measures. A stalling of the managed care "revolution," if it is sustained, may portend future escalation in healthcare costs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Capitation Fee
  • Data Collection
  • Economics, Medical*
  • Family Practice / economics*
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data
  • Income / trends
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Managed Care Programs / economics
  • Managed Care Programs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Physician Incentive Plans / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Sharing, Financial
  • Specialization*
  • United States