Means by which to improve the quality of care offered in the private sector have received increasing interest. This paper considers the influences upon hospital physician prescribing practices. It presents data on drug management practices and prescribing patterns in a sample of private for-profit, private non-profit and public hospitals in Bangkok. Clear differences emerge in prescription patterns between the different groups of hospitals: public hospitals exhibit greater use of essential drugs and generic prescribing than either group of private hospital, and prescriptions at private for-profit hospitals tended to have more essential drugs and drugs prescribed by generic name than non-profit hospitals. Prescribing patterns in public hospitals are probably largely explained by national government policy on pharmaceutical procurement. In contrast, prescribing patterns in private for-profit hospitals appear heavily influenced by pressure upon management to contain costs, in circumstances where high drug costs cannot be passed on to purchasers. Hence hospital management have developed policies encouraging the use of generic drugs and essential drugs. These same financial pressures also explain some less desirable forms of behaviour in private for-profit hospitals such as prescribing courses of antibiotic treatment of extremely short duration. Possible measures which government may take to encourage appropriate prescribing within private hospitals are discussed.
Health Policy (1999) 46 (3) 179-194 [doi:10.1016/S0168-8510(98)00066-9]