Using pay for performance incentives (P4P) to improve management of suspected malaria fevers in rural Kenya: a cluster randomized controlled trial

BMC Med. 2015 Oct 16;13:268. doi: 10.1186/s12916-015-0497-y.


Background: Inappropriate treatment of non-malaria fevers with artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) is a growing concern, particularly in light of emerging artemisinin resistance, but it is a behavior that has proven difficult to change. Pay for performance (P4P) programs have generated interest as a mechanism to improve health service delivery and accountability in resource-constrained health systems. However, there has been little experimental evidence to establish the effectiveness of P4P in developing countries. We tested a P4P strategy that emphasized parasitological diagnosis and appropriate treatment of suspected malaria, in particular reduction of unnecessary consumption of ACTs.

Methods: A random sample of 18 health centers was selected and received a refresher workshop on malaria case management. Pre-intervention baseline data was collected from August to September 2012. Facilities were subsequently randomized to either the comparison (n = 9) or intervention arm (n = 9). Between October 2012 and November 2013, facilities in the intervention arm received quarterly incentive payments based on seven performance indicators. Incentives were for use by facilities rather than as payments to individual providers. All non-pregnant patients older than 1 year of age who presented to a participating facility and received either a malaria test or artemether-lumefantrine (AL) were eligible to be included in the analysis. Our primary outcome was prescription of AL to patients with a negative malaria diagnostic test (n = 11,953). Our secondary outcomes were prescription of AL to patients with laboratory-confirmed malaria (n = 2,993) and prescription of AL to patients without a malaria diagnostic test (analyzed at the cluster level, n = 178 facility-months).

Results: In the final quarter of the intervention period, the proportion of malaria-negative patients in the intervention arm who received AL was lower than in the comparison arm (7.3% versus 10.9%). The improvement from baseline to quarter 4 in the intervention arm was nearly three times that of the comparison arm (ratio of adjusted odds ratios for baseline to quarter 4 = 0.36, 95% CI: 0.24-0.57). The rate of prescription of AL to patients without a test was five times lower in the intervention arm (adjusted incidence rate ratio = 0.18, 95% CI: 0.07-0.48). Prescription of AL to patients with confirmed infection was not significantly different between the groups over the study period.

Conclusions: Facility-based incentives coupled with training may be more effective than training alone and could complement other quality improvement approaches.

Trial registration: This study was registered with (NCT01809873) on 11 March 2013.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Disease Management
  • Female
  • Fever / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Kenya
  • Malaria / diagnosis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Reimbursement, Incentive / statistics & numerical data*
  • Rural Population

Associated data