Lessons from the recent trial of a pay-for-performance programme in Afghanistan

Elina Dale, Anubhav Agarwal, Cyrus Engineer

Cyrus-Engineer photo Anubhav Agarwal Elina Dale_croppped

 

 

 

 

Significant resources in global health are spent on pay-for-performance (P4P), also known under a more general term as results-based financing (RBF). Originating in the UK and USA, P4P has now become – to borrow a phrase from Cheryl Cashin – the new “it-girl” in health financing. However, as recent experience from Afghanistan shows, implementation is not always easy and P4P interventions must be better designed if they are to achieve real population health gains.

From 2010 to 2012 a P4P programme in Afghanistan provided quarterly bonus payments to health-care providers for increases in the use of maternal and child health (MCH) services, adjusted by a quality of care score. Our study, a large-scale cluster randomized trial, demonstrates that the programme did not produce the intended results. There were no observable improvements in any of the five key MCH coverage indicators measuring contraceptive prevalence, skilled birth attendances, vaccinations, and antenatal and postnatal check-ups. No changes were observed in the equity of care. While the programme appeared to increase time spent with patients, resulting in more complete histories and physical examinations, and improved patient counselling, other measures of quality, such as availability of medicines and supplies, did not substantially change. Continue reading “Lessons from the recent trial of a pay-for-performance programme in Afghanistan”