• A
  • |
  • A
  • Text size

Completed Research Projects

PRESSURES Study: Physicians' responses to utilization review pressures

Physicians face increasing ethical pressure from utilization review processes in managed care. When patients need a service for which payment has been or is likely to be denied, physicians may respond in several ways. Among the potential options, a few are particularly ethically troublesome: the physician may not tell the patient about the service, may ask the patient to pay for the service personally, or may alter the patient's record to justify payment for the service. This 1998 national physician survey documents the frequency of each of these occurrences and explores correlates for each.

Appeals of adverse utilization review decisions: Physicians' experiences

One ethically appropriate response to an adverse utilization review decision may be to mount an appeal. Yet the frequency and success rates of such appeals are largely unknown. As part of the 1997 AMA Socioeconomic Monitoring Survey, several questions were added to determine how often physicians challenge adverse utilization decisions, and what the outcomes of these challenges are in specific managed care plans.

Physician capitation: A national survey of primary care physicians

Increasingly, physicians' income is being placed at risk for the costs of their patients' care, especially through capitated payment. This national physician survey, conducted throughout 1997, explored primary care physicians' experiences with, views on, and responses to capitated payment for medical care. The survey answered several questions, including: how often do physicians discuss with patients how they are compensated for patient care; whether physicians recommend to certain patients that they avoid or join capitated managed care plans; and whether greater experience with capitation alters physician views on this form of payment for medical care.

Physician survey response rates: The effect of monetary incentives

Survey researchers commonly include a monetary inducement with mailed surveys to encourage higher survey return rates. The precise effect of these monetary incentives for physician surveys today is not known. This randomized trial - conducted as a sub study of another physician survey project - compared different cash incentives for their effect on survey response rates.

Codes of ethics and ethics-related policies: consensus and conflicts

The contents of the codes of ethics of medical professional associations have never been systematically compared with each other, or with the actual ethics-related policies of care delivery organizations. Where are there areas of broad professional consensus on ethical policies? Where do the policies of managed care plans and medical groups facilitate professional ethics, and where might conflicts arise? To answer these questions, samples of medical professional association codes were systematically abstracted and compared with each other and with abstracted ethics-related policies from a randomly drawn sample of managed care organizations and medical group practices.

Focus groups of influential parties in health plan purchasing

Employers frequently make decisions about health plan purchasing that affect numerous employees. What information do these decision-makers find useful? What information would they like to have, but do not? And who else is involved in these critical decisions? In preparation for work on the Ethical Force Program® we performed a series of 6 focus groups of employee benefits managers from diverse sizes and types of organizations, followed by 4 focus groups of insurance brokers and consultants. Each focus group discussed health care quality, where information on quality is available, and how issues of ethics might affect health care purchasing and delivery.

Health care organizational ethics

Changes in the health care system have raised the importance of the roles of organizations in how the health care system functions. Today, organizations profoundly influence the way patients pay for, access, and experience health care delivery. These changes necessitate greater consideration of organizational accountability in the health care system. But what is the appropriate framework for assessing organizational accountability in health care delivery?

There is a well-developed literature on professional ethics, which focuses primarily on individual patient-physician encounters. Unfortunately, professionalism — while arguably an adequate basis for accountability of individual physicians — has not yet taken into account the multitude of parties and organizational structures now involved in the provision of health care. Although this does not mean that professionalism should be abandoned, there is a need to seek an expanded view in order to understand the ethical obligations of health care organizations.

The field of business ethics provides another potential starting point for organizational ethics, but there has been little discussion in this literature that focuses specifically on health care organizations and whether they have unique obligations. Yet these entities do present unique issues, in part because they must integrate business, professional, and patient concerns. In addition, although some similar concerns may be shared by any organization dealing with multiple stakeholders, the fact that these organizations provide health care (a basic need) to ill people (a vulnerable population) is of particular importance. Thus, general theories of institutional morality or institutional obligations (eg, stakeholder theory) may not provide a full theory for the ethics of health care organizations.

The Institute for Ethics National Working Group on Organizational Ethics in Health Care was appointed to study the interactions between professional and business ethics and to begin the development of a coherent theory of health care organizational ethics. Participants included representatives from clinical ethics, business ethics, institutional ethics, health care organization administration, and government regulatory agencies. A white paper outlining the Working Group's theory was developed and is now available on the Web .