Financial Incentives Offered to Physicians by MCOs Do Not Affect Patient Trust, Study Finds
The disclosure of financial incentives that managed care organizations offer to doctors to control health care costs does not affect patient trust in physicians or health insurers, according to a study published in the current issue of Health Affairs. Reuters Health reports that in the study, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, researchers asked 897 members of an HMO that used a capitated physician reimbursement system and 1,021 members of an HMO that used a discounted fee-for-service system about trust issues and past experiences with doctors and HMOs. Both HMOs offered doctors financial incentives to reduce costs, maintain patient satisfaction and meet preventive care performance measures. After the first set of questions, researchers divided the HMO members into four groups -- one group of members from each HMO received written and verbal disclosures of the financial incentives that their HMOs offered to doctors and one group of members from each HMO did not receive the information -- and repeated the questions one month later. The study found that in the two groups that received the information, trust in doctors increased 1.4% among members of the HMO that used capitated reimbursements and did not change among members of the HMO that used fee-for-service reimbursements. In addition, the study found that trust in health insurers did not change among members of the two groups (Reuters Health, 3/13). According to the study, titled "How Disclosing HMO Physician Incentives Affects Trust," the disclosure of financial incentives "does not, in the short term, reduce trust in physicians or insurers and may have a mild positive impact on physician trust, perhaps as a consequence of displaying candor and increasing understanding of positive features" (Hall et al., Health Affairs, March/April 2002).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.