The Influence of Gatekeeping and Utilization Review on Patient Satisfaction
Published in: Journal of General Internal Medicine, v. 14, no. 5, May 1999, p. 287-296
Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 1998
OBJECTIVE: To examine the influence of utilization review and denial of specialty referrals on patient satisfaction with overall medical care, willingness to recommend one's physician group to a friend, and desire to disenroll from the health plan. DESIGN: Two cross-sectional questionnaires: one of physician groups and one of patient satisfaction. SETTING: Eighty-eight capitated physician groups in California. PARTICIPANTS: Participants were 11,710 patients enrolled in a large California network-model HMO in 1993 who received care in one of the 88 physician groups. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: The main measures were how groups conducted utilization review for specialty referrals and tests, patient-reported denial of specialty referrals, and patient satisfaction with overall medical care. Patients in groups that required preauthorization for access to many types of specialists were significantly (p =.001) less satisfied than patients in groups that had few preauthorization requirements, even after adjusting for patient and other group characteristics. Patients who had wanted to see a specialist in the previous year but did not see one were significantly less satisfied than those who had wanted to see a specialist and actually saw one (p <.001). In addition, patients who did not see a specialist when desired were more likely to want to disenroll from the health plan than patients who saw the specialist (40% vs 18%, p =.001) and more likely not to recommend their group to a friend (38% vs 13%, p =.001). CONCLUSIONS: Policies that limited direct access to specialists, and especially denial of patient-desired referrals, were associated with significantly lower patient satisfaction, increased desire to disenroll, and lower likelihood of recommending the group to a friend. Health plans and physician groups need to take these factors into account when designing strategies to reduce specialty care use.