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An Examination of Pay-for-Performance in General Practice in Australia

Keywords: Pay-for-performance;quality of care;quality improvement;chronic disease care

Objective: This study examines the impact of Australia's pay-for-performance (P4P) program for general practitioners (GPs). The voluntary program pays GPs A$40 and A$100 in addition to fee-for-service payment for providing patients recommended diabetes and asthma treatment over a year, and A$35 for screening women for cervical cancer who have not been screened in 4 years.

Design: Three approaches were used to triangulate the program's impact: (1) analysis of trends in national claims for incentivized services pre- and postprogram implementation; (2) fixed effects panel regression models examining the impact of GPs' P4P program participation on provision of incentivized services; and (3) in-depth interviews to explore GPs' perceptions of their own response to the program.

Results: There was a short-term increase in diabetes testing and cervical cancer screens after program implementation. The increase, however, was for all GPs. Neither signing onto the program nor claiming incentive payments was associated with increased diabetes testing or cervical cancer screening. GPs reported that the incentive did not influence their behavior, largely due to the modest payment and the complexity of tracking patients and claiming payment.

Implications: Monitoring and evaluating P4P programs is essential, as programs may not spark the envisioned impact on quality improvement.

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