Assessing the 'relative value' of diabetic patients treated through an incentivized, corporate compliance model

Anthropol Med. 2010 Aug;17(2):215-28. doi: 10.1080/13648470.2010.493649.


Primary Care clinics in the United States continue to incentivize doctors to adhere to clinical guidelines regarding record keeping and managing specific patient disorders. This paper offers a case study of a US physician working in a system of total compliance. This narrative will illustrate how a specific system has emerged that pays doctors an end-of-year bonus for achieving compliance in four specific areas: record keeping, service hours, customer satisfaction surveys, and maintaining tight control of diabetic patients. In particular, special attention is paid to the emphasis on 'the numbers' within the corporate compliance model, and specifically, the relative value units (RVUs) used for structuring billing, labeling patients, and organizing the day-to-day activities of doctors. Although incentivized models of compliance have proved effective in managing both doctors and patients, especially in the UK, 'gaming' the system can occur. This paper identifies one example of how patients assume a hidden risk within this model by potentially being labeled noncompliant by having the wrong numbers, even when receiving good clinical care and acting medically compliant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Physician Incentive Plans*
  • Primary Health Care / economics*
  • Salaries and Fringe Benefits
  • United States