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Measuring physician attitudes toward cost, uncertainty, malpractice, and utilization review

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Objective: To develop a reliable measure of physician attitudes postulated to influence resource utilization.

Design: Statements related to attitudes that may influence resource use were culled from the literature and informal discussions with physicians.

Setting: Academic medical center.

Participants: All faculty and housestaff in internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine, and surgery at an academic medical center were surveyed. The response rate was 59% (n=428).

Results: Exploratory factor analysis of all internal medicine surveys revealed four prominent domains. These closely corresponded with our a-priori hypothesized domains and were interpreted as cost-consciousness, discomfort with uncertainty, fear of malpractice, and annoyance with utilization review. A replication of the analysis using 25 survey items and conducted on the remainder of the data (surgeons, pediatricians, and family practitioners) revealed a similar four-factor solution. Scales were constructed for each of the four domains. Cronbach’s alpha ranged from 0.66 to 0.88. Discomfort from uncertainty and fear of malpractice were moderately correlated (r=0.42); other scale-scale correlations were modest. Of the four attitude measures, only cost-consciousness was associated with lower self-estimates of resource use. Both annoyance with utilization review and fear of malpractice increased as the proportion of time spent in patient care increased.

Conclusions: Although various physician attitudes and beliefs have been hypothesized to influence health services resource use, reliable and valid measures for most of these have not been developed. The authors developed a 19-item survey instrument designed to measure these attitudes reliably. The four scales developed in this study may help identify physician attitudes that are important determinants of physician decision making and help foster a better understanding of physicians’ reactions and acculturation to different practice environments.

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Supported in part by the Lyle C. Roll Memorial Fund.

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Goold, S.D., Hofer, T., Zimmerman, M. et al. Measuring physician attitudes toward cost, uncertainty, malpractice, and utilization review. J Gen Intern Med 9, 544–549 (1994).

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