Addresses correspondance to John McKinlay, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist, New England Research Institutes, 9 Galen Street, Watertown, MA 02472. Carol Link, Ph.D., Senior Statistician, Lisa Marceau, M.P.H., Director, Media and Communications, and Amy O'Donnell, M.P.H., Associate Research Scientist, are with the New England Research Institutes, Watertown, MA. Sara Arber, Ph.D., Professor, is with the University of Surrey, Guildford, U.K. and Ann Adams, Ph.D., Principal Research Fellow, is with the University of Warwick, Coventry, U.K.
How Do Doctors in Different Countries Manage the Same Patient? Results of a Factorial Experiment
Article first published online: 6 JUL 2006
Health Services Research
Volume 41, Issue 6, pages 2182–2200, December 2006
How to Cite
McKinlay, J., Link, C., Arber, S., Marceau, L., O'Donnell, A. and Adams, A. (2006), How Do Doctors in Different Countries Manage the Same Patient? Results of a Factorial Experiment. Health Services Research, 41: 2182–2200. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6773.2006.00595.x
- Issue published online: 6 JUL 2006
- Article first published online: 6 JUL 2006
- Clinical decision making;
- health disparities;
- clinical encounter
Objective. To determine the relative contributions of: (1) patient attributes; (2) provider characteristics; and (3) health care systems to health care disparities in the management of coronary heart disease (CHD) and depression.
Data Sources/Study Setting. Primary experimental data were collected in 2001–2 from 256 randomly sampled primary care providers in the U.S. (Massachusetts) and the U.K. (Surrey, Southeast London, and the West Midlands).
Study Design. Two factorial experiments were conducted in which physicians were shown, in random order, two clinically authentic videotapes of “patients” presenting with symptoms strongly suggestive of CHD and depression. “Patient” characteristics (age, gender, race, and socioeconomic status [SES]) were systematically varied, permitting estimation of unconfounded main effects and the interaction of patient, provider, and system-level influences.
Data Collection/Data Extraction Methods. Analysis of variance was used to measure provider decision-making outcomes, including diagnosis, information seeking, test ordering, prescribing behavior, lifestyle recommendations, and referrals/follow-ups.
Principal Findings. There is a high level of consistency in decision making for CHD and depression between the U.S. and the U.K. Most physicians in both countries correctly identified conditions depicted in the vignettes, although U.S. doctors engage in more information seeking, are more likely to prescribe medications, and are more certain of their diagnoses than their U.K. counterparts. The absence of any national differences in test ordering is consistent for both of the medical conditions depicted. U.K. physicians, however, were more likely than U.S. physicians to make lifestyle recommendations for CHD and to refer those patients to other providers.
Conclusions. Substantively, these findings point to the importance of patient and provider characteristics in understanding between-country differences in clinical decision making. Methodologically, our use of a factorial experiment highlights the potential of these methods for health services research—especially the estimation of the influence of patient attributes, provider characteristics, and between-country differences in the quality of medical care.