Profit or patients' health benefit? Exploring the heterogeneity in physician altruism

J Health Econ. 2013 Dec;32(6):1105-16. doi: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2013.08.008. Epub 2013 Sep 12.


This paper investigates physician altruism toward patients' health benefit using behavioral data from Hennig-Schmidt et al.'s (2011) laboratory experiment. In the experiment, medical students in the role of physicians decide on the provision of medical services. The experimental setup allows us to identify the influence of profits and patients' health benefit on the choice of medical treatment. We estimate physician altruism, the weight individuals attach to patients' health benefit, by fitting mixed logit and multinomial logit regression models to the experimental data. Estimation results provide evidence for physician altruism. We find, however, substantial variation in the degree of physician altruism. We also discuss some implications of our results for the design of physician payment schemes in the light of the theoretical literature.

Keywords: C91; Health care quantity; I11; Mixed logit regression; Payment incentives; Physician altruism; Physician behavior.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Altruism*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians / economics*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Reimbursement, Incentive / economics
  • Students, Medical / psychology