Background: Pay for performance (P4P) schemes have become increasingly popular innovations in primary care and have generated questions about their effect on improving quality of care.
Aims: To provide a brief outline of the international evidence on the relationship between P4P schemes and quality improvement.
Method: We conducted a literature search using relevant databases and reference lists of retrieved articles which discussed P4P schemes, quality in primary care and the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF). These included two recent systematic reviews of P4P schemes.
Results: Evidence on the effect of P4P on quality is limited. What we can say is that P4P schemes can have an effect on the behaviour of physicians and can lead to better clinical management of disease, but that there is cause for concern about the impact on the quality of care.
Conclusion: P4P schemes need to take more account of broader definitions of quality, as whilst they can have a positive impact on incentivised clinical processes, it is not clear that this translates into improving the experience and outcome of care.