Payment for performance (P4P) strategies, which provide financial incentives to health workers and/or facilities for reaching pre-defined performance targets, can improve healthcare utilisation and quality. P4P may also reduce inequalities in healthcare use and access by enhancing universal access to care, for example, through reducing the financial barriers to accessing care. However, P4P may also enhance inequalities in healthcare if providers cherry-pick the easier-to-reach patients to meet their performance targets. In this study, we examine the heterogeneity of P4P effects on service utilisation across population subgroups and its implications for inequalities in Tanzania.
We used household data from an evaluation of a P4P programme in Tanzania. We surveyed about 3000 households with women who delivered in the last 12 months prior to the interview from seven intervention and four comparison districts in January 2012 and a similar number of households in 13 months later. The household data were used to generate the population subgroups and to measure the incentivised service utilisation outcomes. We focused on two outcomes that improved significantly under the P4P, i.e. institutional delivery rate and the uptake of antimalarials for pregnant women. We used a difference-in-differences linear regression model to estimate the effect of P4P on utilisation outcomes across the different population subgroups.
P4P led to a significant increase in the rate of institutional deliveries among women in poorest and in middle wealth status households, but not among women in least poor households. However, the differential effect was marginally greater among women in the middle wealth households compared to women in the least poor households (p = 0.094). The effect of P4P on institutional deliveries was also significantly higher among women in rural districts compared to women in urban districts (p = 0.028 for differential effect), and among uninsured women than insured women (p = 0.001 for differential effect). The effect of P4P on the uptake of antimalarials was equally distributed across population subgroups.
P4P can enhance equitable healthcare access and use especially when the demand-side barriers to access care such as user fees associated with drug purchase due to stock-outs have been reduced.