Study investigates compensation vs. care

Compensation methods of primary care physicians do not significantly impact utilization and costs of health care services by managed care enrollees, a study conducted by the University of Washington-Seattle Department of Health Services found.

A study by Douglas A. Conrad, PhD, and 12 other researchers at the university, found that patient age, sex, and plan benefit level - not physician compensation - impacted the number of hospital bed days, physician visits, and per member per year costs. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (279:853-858).

The group investigated 1994 utilization and cost patterns of patients from 60 medical groups in Washington representing more than 200,000 patients enrolled in one of four health plans studied.

The study's authors noted that because medical groups as a whole, rather than individual physicians, were capitated, future analyses should examine the impact of financial incentives on physicians in solo or two-person practices.