Direct-to-consumer advertising is but one example of a process called disintermediation that is directly affecting primary-care physicians and their patients. This paper examines the trends and the actors involved in disintermediation, which threatens the traditional patient-physician relationship. The paper outlines the social forces behind these threats and illustrates the resulting challenges and opportunities. A rationale and strategies are presented to rebuild, maintain and strengthen the patient-physician relationship in an era of growing disintermediation and anticipated advancements in cost-effective office-based information systems.

Primary care - as we know it - is under siege from a number of trends in healthcare delivery, resulting in loss of physician autonomy, disrupted continuity of care and potential erosion of professional values (Rastegar 2004; Future of Family Medicine Project Leadership Committee 2004). The halcyon days of medicine as a craft guild with a monopoly on (1) technical knowledge and (2) the means of implementation, reached its zenith in the mid-twentieth century and has been under pressure ever since (Starr 1982; Schlesinger 2002). While this is a trend within the US health system, it is likely to affect other delivery systems in the years ahead.


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    Healthcare Quarterly, 8(2) March 2005

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