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Custom Made Versus Ready to Wear Treatments; Behavioral Propensities in Physician's Choices

  • Richard G. Frank
  • Richard J. Zeckhauser

To customize treatments to individual patients entails costs of coordination and cognition. Thus, providers sometimes choose treatments based on norms for broad classes of patients. We develop behavioral hypotheses explaining when and why doctors customize to the particular patient, and when instead they employ "ready-to-wear" treatments. Our empirical studies examining length of office visits and physician prescribing behavior find evidence of norm-following behavior. Some such behavior, from our studies and from the literature, proves sensible; but other behavior seems far from optimal.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w13445.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13445.

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Date of creation: Sep 2007
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Publication status: published as Frank, Richard G. & Zeckhauser, Richard J., 2007. "Custom-made versus ready-to-wear treatments: Behavioral propensities in physicians' choices," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(6), pages 1101-1127, December.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13445
Note: HC
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page: http://www.nber.orgEmail:


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  1. Banerjee, Abhijit V, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817, August.
  2. Phelps, Charles E., 2000. "Information diffusion and best practice adoption," Handbook of Health Economics, in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 5, pages 223-264 Elsevier.
  3. Gary S. Murphy Becker & Kevin M., 1992. "The Division of Labor, Coordination Costs, and Knowledge," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 79, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  4. Glied, Sherry & Zivin, Joshua Graff, 2002. "How do doctors behave when some (but not all) of their patients are in managed care?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 337-353, March.
  5. John Conlisk, 1996. "Why Bounded Rationality?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(2), pages 669-700, June.
  6. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7656, David K. Levine.
  7. Amitabh Chandra & Douglas O. Staiger, 2007. "Productivity Spillovers in Health Care: Evidence from the Treatment of Heart Attacks," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 103-140.
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