Health Care and Incentives

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Round Table Discussion

Pay and Non-Pay Incentives, Performance and Motivation

Prepared for WHO’s December 2000 Global Health Workforce Strategy Group, Geneva
Orvill Adams, BA (Hons), MA (Economics), MA (International Affairs); V Hicks Department of Organization of Health Services Delivery,
World Health Organization, Geneva

Abstract

This paper provides an overview of evidence of the effects of incentives on the performance and motivation of independent health professionals and health workers. Incentives are viewed in the context of objectives held by paying agencies or employers. The review defines the nature of economic incentives and of non-financial incentives. Particular attention is paid to the need for developing countries to understand the impacts of health reform measures on incentives. A review of current literature found that the response of physicians to economic incentives inherent in payment mechanisms appears to follow directions expected in theory. Incentive structures are becoming more complex, however, as a result of managed care and blended payment mechanisms. There is insufficient evidence of the effects of incentives on motivation and performance of other health workers, due perhaps to a preoccupation of researchers with economic responses. Incentives must be viewed in a broad context in order to understand constraints and success factors that affect their prospects of success. Health human resources should be seen as a complex and interrelated system where incentives aimed at one group of professionals will impact on the entire system.

Introduction

The World Health Report 2000, Health Systems: Improving Performance defines incentives as “all the rewards and punishments that providers face as a consequence of the organizations in which they work, the institutions under which they operate and the specific interventions they provide” ([i]). This definition suggests that the organization, the work that is done and the setting in which work takes place will determine the incentive used and its resulting impact. Buchan et al add another dimension by defining an incentive in terms of its objective: “An incentive refers to one particular form of payment that is intended to achieve some specific change in behaviour” ([ii]). This review is intended to provide an overview of the current evidence on the effect of pay and non-pay incentives on health workers’ performance and motivation. The literature on incentives is primarily focussed on the impact of specific incentives on provider behaviour, especially physicians. There is much less work on the structural and organizational aspects of incentives. This paper primarily uses as its base two papers recently completed for WHO and in publication: (1) Incentive and Remuneration Strategies in Health Care: A Research Review (Buchan et al); (2) The Effects of Economic and Policy Incentives on Provider Practice (Hicks and Adams) ([iii]). The first paper is based on a search of English language publications, using library and CD-ROM facilities. The review as reported by Buchan et al covered the following databases: Social Science Citation Index (SSCI), BIDS, CHNAHL, Psyc Lit, FirstSearch, Medline and Health Management Information Consortium (HMIC). A total of 352 articles and papers were identified. The paper by Hicks and Adams is based on ten country case studies using a common framework for analysis developed by WHO. The countries in the study (Bahrain, Bangladesh, Côte d’Ivoire, Estonia, Ghana, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal and New Zealand) have all undergone health policy changes in the past decade which explicitly addressed incentives, especially in regard to providers. These two very different approaches for collecting evidence and experiences are augmented by a selected set of recent studies that focus primarily on incentives and their impacts. The paper is organized in three...
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