Objective: To review the implementation and impact of different funding initiatives across the health systems of three different countries - England, New Zealand and Australia - on the achievement of multidisciplinary primary health care (PHC) and to reflect on policy implications for Australia.
Methods: A systematic review of the literature involving three stages: (i) identification and description of initiatives; (ii) a systematic review of their implementation and impact from 1995 to mid 2006; and (iii) an updated review of published literature from mid 2006 to mid 2007.
Results: Few studies employed control groups, and the results should therefore be interpreted with caution. In all three countries, funding has supported general practitioner access to a broad range of providers. In Australia, financial incentives have been the main mechanism for bringing about change, whereas in both England and New Zealand, they are part of a broader range of funding reforms including the introduction of capitation and practice-based commissioning. The lack of patient data makes it difficult to assess the extent to which the Australian financial incentives have generally improved population access to a broader range of PHC providers.
Conclusion: Individual, patient-level, financial incentives may present significant impediments for population subgroups with complex needs. Alternative funding arrangements, such as capitation and contracting, could be more widely adopted in Australia to enhance access to care for vulnerable population groups without fundamentally changing the overall fee-for-service financing arrangements.