Managed Care and the Professional Relationship
This section deals with traditional physician– patient relationship law. The core legal assumption about the physician–patient relationship is that it is a fiduciary relationship. The law expects physicians to put their patients’ financial and other interests first. Managed care is dramatically changing the nature of the physician–patient relationship in ways that are not contemplated by existing law. This is resulting in litigation and increased scrutiny by state regulatory agencies. Physicians and other medical care practitioners are caught between the economic power of the managed care organizations with their control of the stream of patients, and the demands of patients and consumer advocates that they live up to the traditional values of the physician–patient relationship. There are several specific problem areas that will be discussed in this section. In general, medical care practitioners must assume that the traditional physician–patient relationship applies in the managed care setting until the courts or legislatures change the law.