How do performance-based financing programmes measure quality of care? A descriptive analysis of 68 quality checklists from 28 low- and middle-income countries

Health Policy Plan. 2017 Oct 1;32(8):1120-1126. doi: 10.1093/heapol/czx053.


This paper seeks to systematically describe the length and content of quality checklists used in performance-based financing programmes, their similarities and differences, and how checklists have evolved over time. We compiled a list of supply-side, health facility-based performance-based financing (PBF) programmes in low- and lower middle-income countries based on a document review. We then solicited PBF manuals and quality checklists from implementers and donors of these PBF mechanisms. We entered each indicator from each quality checklist into a database verbatim in English, and translated into English from French where appropriate, and categorized each indicator according to the Donabedian framework and an author-derived categorization. We extracted 8,490 quality indicators from 68 quality checklists across 32 PBF implementations in 28 countries. On average, checklists contained 125 indicators; within the same program, checklists tend to grow as they are updated. Using the Donabedian framework, 80% of indicators were structure-type, 19% process-type, and less than 1% outcome-type. The author-derived categorization showed that 57% of indicators relate to availability of resources, 24% to managing the facility and 17% assess knowledge and effort. There is a high degree of similarity in a narrow set of indicators used in checklists for common service types such as maternal, neonatal and child health. We conclude that performance-based financing offers an appealing approach to targeting specific quality shortfalls and advancing toward the Sustainable Development Goals of high quality coverage. Currently most indicators focus on structural issues and resource availability. There is scope to rationalize and evolve the quality checklists of these programs to help achieve national and global goals to improve quality of care.

Keywords: Performance-based financing; quality of care; universal coverage.

MeSH terms

  • Checklist*
  • Developing Countries
  • Health Facilities / standards
  • Health Resources / standards
  • Humans
  • Quality of Health Care / standards*
  • Reimbursement, Incentive / organization & administration
  • Reimbursement, Incentive / standards*