How to achieve optimal organization of primary care service delivery at system level: lessons from Europe

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Abstract

Objective

To measure the relative efficiency of primary care (PC) in turning their structures into services delivery and turning their services delivery into quality outcomes.

Design

Cross-sectional study based on the dataset of the Primary Healthcare Activity Monitor for Europe project. Two Data Envelopment Analysis models were run to compare the relative technical efficiency. A sensitivity analysis of the resulting efficiency scores was performed.

Setting

PC systems in 22 European countries in 2009/2010.

Main Outcome Measures

Model 1 included data on PC governance, workforce development and economic conditions as inputs and access, coordination, continuity and comprehensiveness of care as outputs. Model 2 included the previous process dimensions as inputs and quality indicators as outputs.

Results

There is relatively reasonable efficiency in all countries at delivering as many as possible PC processes at a given level of PC structure. It is particularly important to invest in economic conditions to achieve an efficient structure–process balance. Only five countries have fully efficient PC systems in turning their services delivery into high quality outcomes, using a similar combination of access, continuity and comprehensiveness, although they differ on the adoption of coordination of services. There is a large variation in efficiency levels obtained by countries with inefficient PC in turning their services delivery into quality outcomes.

Conclusions

Maximizing the individual functions of PC without taking into account the coherence within the health-care system is not sufficient from a policymaker's point of view when aiming to achieve efficiency.

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