Tom R. Tyler

Yale Law School

Although it is within their long-term interest, patients often fail to follow health care recommendations made by medical experts. This failure results in the widespread occurrence of preventable health problems and a significant increase in health care costs. Taking a new approach to confronting this issue, this paper examines whether the procedural justice model, which has been useful in explaining cooperation with legal and managerial authorities, can provide a basis for increasing patients' willingness to voluntarily adhere to health care recommendations. Three studies tested and supported this proposition. Study 1 experimentally manipulated physicians' procedural fairness or unfairness to explore its influence on patients' acceptance of doctors' recommendations. Study 2 used patients' reports about the fairness of their personal physicians and linked those evaluations to their willingness to follow their doctor's recommendations. Finally, study 3 explored the role of general procedural justice judgments in promoting willingness to accept health policies when they are advocated by private doctors and government health care authorities. The results of all three studies support the argument that when health care authorities use fair procedures, patients are more likely to accept their recommendations. Importantly, this procedural justice effect is distinct from, and in some cases stronger than, the influence of competence.