Evaluation of financial incentives as a quality improvement strategy in the public hospital context : clinician attitudes, design variables, and economic costs

Stockwell, Alexis (2010) Evaluation of financial incentives as a quality improvement strategy in the public hospital context : clinician attitudes, design variables, and economic costs. Professional Doctorate thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


In 2008, a three-year pilot ‘pay for performance’ (P4P) program, known as ‘Clinical Practice Improvement Payment’ (CPIP) was introduced into Queensland Health (QHealth). QHealth is a large public health sector provider of acute, community, and public health services in Queensland, Australia. The organisation has recently embarked on a significant reform agenda including a review of existing funding arrangements (Duckett et al., 2008). Partly in response to this reform agenda, a casemix funding model has been implemented to reconnect health care funding with outcomes. CPIP was conceptualised as a performance-based scheme that rewarded quality with financial incentives. This is the first time such a scheme has been implemented into the public health sector in Australia with a focus on rewarding quality, and it is unique in that it has a large state-wide focus and includes 15 Districts. CPIP initially targeted five acute and community clinical areas including Mental Health, Discharge Medication, Emergency Department, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and Stroke. The CPIP scheme was designed around key concepts including the identification of clinical indicators that met the set criteria of: high disease burden, a well defined single diagnostic group or intervention, significant variations in clinical outcomes and/or practices, a good evidence, and clinician control and support (Ward, Daniels, Walker & Duckett, 2007). This evaluative research targeted Phase One of implementation of the CPIP scheme from January 2008 to March 2009. A formative evaluation utilising a mixed methodology and complementarity analysis was undertaken. The research involved three research questions and aimed to determine the knowledge, understanding, and attitudes of clinicians; identify improvements to the design, administration, and monitoring of CPIP; and determine the financial and economic costs of the scheme.

Three key studies were undertaken to ascertain responses to the key research questions. Firstly, a survey of clinicians was undertaken to examine levels of knowledge and understanding and their attitudes to the scheme. Secondly, the study sought to apply Statistical Process Control (SPC) to the process indicators to assess if this enhanced the scheme and a third study examined a simple economic cost analysis. The CPIP Survey of clinicians elicited 192 clinician respondents. Over 70% of these respondents were supportive of the continuation of the CPIP scheme. This finding was also supported by the results of a quantitative altitude survey that identified positive attitudes in 6 of the 7 domains-including impact, awareness and understanding and clinical relevance, all being scored positive across the combined respondent group. SPC as a trending tool may play an important role in the early identification of indicator weakness for the CPIP scheme. This evaluative research study supports a previously identified need in the literature for a phased introduction of Pay for Performance (P4P) type programs. It further highlights the value of undertaking a formal risk assessment of clinician, management, and systemic levels of literacy and competency with measurement and monitoring of quality prior to a phased implementation. This phasing can then be guided by a P4P Design Variable Matrix which provides a selection of program design options such as indicator target and payment mechanisms. It became evident that a clear process is required to standardise how clinical indicators evolve over time and direct movement towards more rigorous ‘pay for performance’ targets and the development of an optimal funding model. Use of this matrix will enable the scheme to mature and build the literacy and competency of clinicians and the organisation as implementation progresses. Furthermore, the research identified that CPIP created a spotlight on clinical indicators and incentive payments of over five million from a potential ten million was secured across the five clinical areas in the first 15 months of the scheme. This indicates that quality was rewarded in the new QHealth funding model, and despite issues being identified with the payment mechanism, funding was distributed. The economic model used identified a relative low cost of reporting (under $8,000) as opposed to funds secured of over $300,000 for mental health as an example. Movement to a full cost effectiveness study of CPIP is supported. Overall the introduction of the CPIP scheme into QHealth has been a positive and effective strategy for engaging clinicians in quality and has been the catalyst for the identification and monitoring of valuable clinical process indicators. This research has highlighted that clinicians are supportive of the scheme in general; however, there are some significant risks that include the functioning of the CPIP payment mechanism. Given clinician support for the use of a pay–for-performance methodology in QHealth, the CPIP scheme has the potential to be a powerful addition to a multi-faceted suite of quality improvement initiatives within QHealth.

Impact and interest:

Search Google Scholar™

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

648 since deposited on 05 Jul 2011
52 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 42427
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Supervisor: Fleming, Marylou & Graves, Nicholas
Keywords: clinician attitudes, clinician perceptions, clinical practice improvement payment (CPIP), continuous quality improvement (CQI), economic costs, evaluation , financial incentives, health service research, pay for performance (P4P), P4P design variables, pay for quality (P4Q), public health care, rewards, publications
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 05 Jul 2011 03:02
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2017 14:41

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page