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Models of the medical consultation: opportunities and limitations of a game theory perspective


The medical consultation is best understood as a two-way social interaction involving interactive decision making. Game theory—a theory based on assumptions of rational choice and focusing on interactive decision making—has the potential to provide models of the consultation that can be used to generate empirically testable predictions about the factors that promote quality of care. Three different game structures—the Prisoner’s Dilemma game, the Assurance game, and the Centipede game—all provide insights into the possible underlying dynamics of the doctor-patient interaction. Further empirical work is needed to uncover the underlying game structures that occur most commonly in medical consultations. Game theory has the potential to provide a new conceptual and theoretical basis for future empirical work on the interaction between doctors and their patients.

  • game theory
  • medical consultation
  • doctor-patient relationship
  • primary health care
  • decision making

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