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Provider altruism in health economics

Galizzi, Matteo M., Tammi, Timo, Godager, Geir, Linnosmaa, Ismo and Wiesen, Daniel (2015) Provider altruism in health economics. THL discussion paper (4/2015). National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland. ISBN 9789523024298

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We propose a first comprehensive overview of the main theoretical notions and empirical findings on altruism among physicians and other healthcare providers. While altruism in the behavioral and experimental economics literature is typically defined as a deviation from purely self-interested behavior, the theoretical health economics literature embeds the notion of physician altruism within the doctor–patient relationship. The altruism of physicians is typically defined as the weight in the doctor’s utility function attached to patient’s health benefits, besides the self-interested monetary considerations. We broadly group the empirical evidence into five main categories of evidence, gradually moving from low to high control in the settings and empirical strategies: evidence from i) survey and interview data, ii) discrete choice experiments, iii) prescriptions records, iv) field experiments, and, finally, v) laboratory experiments. Across each of those groups of studies and different methods, the evidence generally supports the theoretical notion that physicians largely behave ‘altruistically’ in their healthcare decisions. Some studies indicate, however, considerable heterogeneity in physicians’ altruistic preferences.

Item Type: Monograph (Discussion Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2015 Authors and National Institute for Health and Welfare
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Date Deposited: 22 Apr 2015 08:39
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 12:06

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