Evidence is poor that financial incentives in primary care improve patients’ wellbeing, Cochrane review finds

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 07 September 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5682
  1. Susan Mayor
  1. 1BMJ

Research evidence fails to show that providing financial incentives to primary care services improves patients’ wellbeing, concludes a Cochrane review published this week. The report warns policy makers to think carefully about the design of such programmes if they are to achieve real improvements for patients.

Anthony Scott, a professorial research fellow, and colleagues at the University of Melbourne’s Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research searched the literature for studies that assessed the effects of financial incentive schemes on the quality of care given by primary care practitioners. They looked for the degree to which changes in doctors’ behaviour improved patients’ wellbeing.

Despite hundreds of financial incentive schemes being introduced into primary care in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere they found only seven studies (from a …

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