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The effect of financial incentives on the quality of health care provided by primary care physicians

Scott A, Sivey P, Ait Ouakrim D, Willenberg L, Naccarella L, Furler J, Young D
Published Online: 
7 September 2011

The use of different ways of paying primary care physicians in an attempt to increase quality of care, including the use of financial incentives to directly reward ‘performance’ and ‘quality’, is increasing in a number of countries. There are many examples in the US, and the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QoF) for general practitioners (GPs) in the UK is an example of a major system-wide reform. Despite the popularity of these schemes, there is currently little rigorous evidence of their success in improving the quality of primary health care, or of whether such an approach is cost-effective relative to other ways to improve the quality of care. The aim of this review is to examine the effect of changes in the method and level of payment on the quality of care provided by primary care physicians (PCPs). There is insufficient evidence to support or not support the use of financial incentives to improve the quality of primary health care. Implementation should proceed with caution and incentive schemes should be carefully designed and evaluated.