Physicians’ Social Networks and the Use of New Medical Technology

Lara Gardner


Recently the U.S. government has generously funded initiatives aimed to generate and/or disseminate results on the clinical- and cost-effectiveness of various medical treatments to physicians. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided more than $1 billion in funding for such comparative effectiveness research (CER). For CER to be a successful investment, new information on the clinical- or cost-effectiveness of a medical method must be transmitted to physicians using methodologies that will effectively change practitioners’ behavior. Yet there is limited evidence on the effectiveness of past strategies used to disseminate new information to physicians and some current dissemination strategies fail to address the specific social context in which physicians practice. Our study explores how physicians’ social networks are related to the adoption of a treatment for cardiac disease, the drug-eluting stent. Using two different measures of physician networks, all results indicate that physicians with larger networks adopt the drug-eluting stent on a wider scale, even after controlling for physician, patient, hospital, and local characteristics.

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