Impact of pay for performance on inequalities in health care: systematic review

J Health Serv Res Policy. 2010 Jul;15(3):178-84. doi: 10.1258/jhsrp.2010.009113.


Objectives: To assess the impact of pay for performance programmes on inequalities in the quality of health care in relation to age, sex, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

Methods: Systematic search and appraisal of experimental or observational studies that assessed quantitatively the impact of a monetary incentive on health care inequalities. We searched published articles in English identified in the MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO and Cochrane databases.

Results: Twenty-two studies were identified, 20 of which were conducted in the United Kingdom and examined the impact of the Quality and Outcomes Framework. Sixteen studies used practice level data rather than patient level data. Socioeconomic status was the most frequently examined inequality; age, sex and ethnic inequalities were less frequently assessed. There was some weak evidence that the use of financial incentives reduced inequalities in chronic disease management between socioeconomic groups. Inequalities in chronic disease management between age, sex and ethnic groups persisted after the use of such incentives.

Conclusion: Inequalities in chronic disease management have largely persisted after the introduction of the Quality and Outcome Framework. Pay for performance programmes should be designed to reduce inequalities as well as improve the overall quality of care.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease / therapy*
  • Healthcare Disparities / economics*
  • Humans
  • Program Evaluation
  • Quality of Health Care / economics*
  • Reimbursement, Incentive*
  • Socioeconomic Factors