Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type


Director of Thesis

Kevin J. Bennett, Ph.D.


The physician-patient relationship is the most fundamental unit of medicine itself - and yet currently faces great peril, increasingly encroached upon by a number of different threats. Consumer-directed healthcare, an innovative new form of healthcare financing, empowers indi- viduals to make their own decisions regarding their healthcare, holds providers accountable to their patients, and theoretically establishes a robust working relationship that benefits both par- ties. Could this be what is needed to save and strengthen the physician-patient relationship? This paper studies this question, namely the effect of consumer-directed healthcare on the physi- cian-patient relationship, in-depth through a synthesis of existing research.

First, the importance and relevance of the physician-patient relationship are explained. The major determining factors of the relationship are then identified before context of the rela- tionship’s current state is provided. Next, the paper defines consumer-directed healthcare, specifically the two major types: Consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) and direct primary care (DPC). The theory behind this model is given, as well as an analysis of the conceptualiza- tion of healthcare as a market. The paper then examines three distinct healthcare systems -- sin- gle-payer, the current American system, and consumer-driven healthcare -- through the lens of the previously-identified factors to assess how each one impacts the physician-patient relation- ship. Following that is a thorough discussion on how consumer-driven healthcare has fared (both CDHPs and DPC) since its inception and the real-world results it has produced in relation to the physician-patient relationship. The paper concludes by looking at the obstacles that stand in the way of future expansion of consumer-driven healthcare.

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