Medical care as a commodity - An exploration of the shopping behavior of patients

Donna M. Olsen, Robert L. Kane, Josephine Kasteler

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25 Scopus citations


A 10% household sample of high- and low-income census tracts was interviewed to assess the extent of doctor shopping. In 632 households studied, 53% of high socioeconomic status and 51% of low socioeconomic status families had shopped for or changed doctors of their own volition. During the previous year, 4% of each socioeconomic group had consulted more than one doctor without referral for the same episode of illness. Shoppers could be distinguished from non-shoppers-shoppers were younger, were better informed about medical specialties, were less self-reliant, more hypochondriacal, expressed less hostility toward physicians, and had less positive attitudes toward the medical care system. The differences between shoppers and non-shoppers were generally similar for both high and low socioeconomic status groups. In addition, 52% of the families studied had been forced to change doctors because of circumstances beyond their control, i.e., the patient moved or the doctor moved, retired, or died.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-91
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Community Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 1976


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