Don’t Count on Financial Incentives to Improve Care Quality

FierceHealthcare | The healthcare industry has put much focus on
pay-for-performance programs to improve the quality of care. Yet new research
questions this approach and suggests that providing financial incentives to doctors
and hospitals to deliver high-quality care may not ensure healthier patients.

After reviewing studies of incentive programs, researchers found inadequate
evidence to determine whether pay-for-performance programs improve or hinder
clinical quality and cost control.

“There is currently little rigorous evidence about whether financial
incentives do improve the quality of primary health care, or of whether such an
approach is cost-effective relative to other ways of improving the quality of
care,” Dr. Peter Sivey from the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne
Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research in Australia said in a

The incentive programs could neither be supported nor disputed because they
leave open the possibility that they may not have any influence on care quality
or have negative effects.

Although paying doctors and hospitals to improve one population’s chronic
condition may succeed, it could adversely affect another population, as doctors
may focus less on them.

Similarly, other research has found that instead of encouraging
providers to shift resources toward overall quality improvement, financial
incentives may compel providers to focus on narrow, incentivized areas. That’s
because they’re only being rewarded for achieving specific health outcomes,
notes FierceHealthPayer.


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