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Effect of payment incentives on cancer screening in Ontario primary care


Purpose — There is limited evidence for the effectiveness of pay for performance despite its widespread use. The authors assessed whether the introduction of a pay-for-performance scheme for primary care physicians in Ontario, Canada, was associated with increased cancer screening rates and determined the amounts paid to physicians as part of the program.

Methods — The authors performed a longitudinal analysis using administrative data to determine cancer screening rates and incentive costs in each fiscal year from 1999/2000 to 2009/2010. The authors used a segmented linear regression analysis to assess whether there was a step change or change in screening rate trends after incentives were introduced in 2006/2007. The authors included all Ontarians eligible for cervical, breast, and colorectal cancer screening.

Results — The authors found no significant step change in the screening rate for any of the 3 cancers the year after incentives were introduced. Colon cancer screening was increasing at a rate of 3.0% (95% CI, 2.3% to 3.7%) per year before the incentives were introduced and 4.7% (95% CI, 3.7% to 5.7%) per year after. The cervical and breast cancer screening rates did not change significantly from year to year before or after the incentives were introduced. Between 2006/2007 and 2009/2010, $28.3 million, $31.3 million, and $50.0 million were spent on financial incentives for cervical, breast, and colorectal cancer screening, respectively.

Conclusions — The pay-for-performance scheme was associated with little or no improvement in screening rates despite substantial expenditure. Policy makers should consider other strategies for improving rates of cancer screening.



Kiran T, Wilton AS, Moineddin R, Paszat L, Glazier RH. Ann Fam Med. 2014; 12(4):317-23.

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