Doctor-Manager Relationships in the United States and the United Kingdom

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Abstract

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In many developed countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, the relationships between doctors and hospital managers are strained. The purposes of this article are to examine survey data from the United States and the United Kingdom on doctor-manager relationships and to identify the sources of strain common to both countries as well as those particular to each country's health system.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The two countries exhibited many similarities. A very high proportion of respondents from both countries identified external factors—such as governmental budget cuts, pressure from third parties to increase physicians' workload, and the turbulence of the policy environment—as important barriers to improving doctor-manager relationships. Other common sources of strain were concerns over resource availability and the relative power of doctors and managers. Sources of relationship tension particular to each country were also found. Substantial divergence of opinion was expressed with respect to internal factors that affect doctor-manager relationships. Respondents from the United States were more negative than those from the United Kingdom in their ratings of teamwork and communication between doctors and managers, and they were also less likely to have confidence in the medical staff. Respondents from the United Kingdom were more likely to believe that hospital management is driven more by financial than clinical priorities.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Managers can implement several strategies to improve doctor-manager relationships, including greater organizational transparency in decision making; more frequent communication between managers and doctors; and more physician involvement in decision making, especially with regard to important resource-related decisions, and in organizational governance.

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