Fee Splitting among General Practitioners: A Cross-Sectional Study in Iran
Fee splitting is a process whereby a physician refers a patient to another physician or a healthcare facility and receives a portion of the charge in return. This survey was conducted to study general practitioners’ (GPs) attitudes toward fee splitting as well as the prevalence, causes, and consequences of this process.
This is a cross-sectional study on 223 general practitioners in 2013. Concerning the causes and consequences of fee splitting, an unpublished qualitative study was conducted by interviewing a number of GPs and specialists and the questionnaire options were the results of the information obtained from this study.
Of the total 320 GPs, 247 returned the questionnaires. The response rate was 77.18%. Of the 247 returned questionnaires, 223 fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Among the participants, 69.1% considered fee splitting completely wrong and 23.2% (frequently or rarely) practiced fee splitting. The present study showed that the prevalence of fee splitting among physicians who had positive attitudes toward fee splitting was 4.63 times higher than those who had negative attitudes. In addition, this study showed that, compared to private hospitals, fee splitting is less practiced in public hospitals. The major cause of fee splitting was found to be unrealistic/unfair tariffs and the main consequence of fee splitting was thought to be an increase in the number of unnecessary patient referrals.
Fee splitting is an unethical act, contradicts the goals of the medical profession, and undermines patient’s best interest. In Iran, there is no code of ethics on fee splitting, but in this study, it was found that the majority of GPs considered it unethical. However, among those who had negative attitudes toward fee splitting, there were physicians who did practice fee splitting. The results of the study showed that physicians who had a positive attitude toward fee splitting practiced it more than others. Therefore, if physicians consider fee splitting unethical, its rate will certainly decrease. The study claims that to decrease such practice, the healthcare system has to revise the tariffs.
Archives of Iranian Medicine, Volume:19 Issue: 12, Dec 2016
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