Are Primary Care Physicians Ready to Practice in a Consumer-Driven Environment?

This article assesses physicians' knowledge of consumer-directed health plans and ability to care for patients enrolled in such plans. Enrollment in consumer-directed health plans has grown rapidly in recent years but little is known about physician readiness to respond to a consumer-directed system. 

Five hundred and twenty-eight primary care physicians responded to the researchers' mailed questionnaire; a 49 percent response rate. The questionnaire results were analyzed with multivariate models and descriptive statistics.

Key Findings:

  • Physicians reported low knowledge of consumer-directed health plan cost sharing and medical savings accounts.
  • The 40 percent of physicians with patients with consumer-directed health plans in their practice had a somewhat higher level of understanding of consumer-directed health plans than other physicians.
  • Physicians were more likely to feel prepared to advise patients on costs of office visits and medications than on the costs of medical interventions such as hospitalizations, specialist visits, and radiologic studies.
  • Only 8 percent of respondents felt that patients could trust quality-of-care information from insurance Web sites.

The study concluded that many physicians lack knowledge of consumer-directed health plans and do not feel prepared to advise their patients on cost considerations.