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1.  A qualitative study of the views of patients with long-term conditions on family doctors in Hong Kong 
BMC Family Practice  2010;11:46.
Background
Primary care based management of long-term conditions (LTCs) is high on the international healthcare agenda, including the Asia-Pacific region. Hong Kong has a 'mixed economy' healthcare system with both public and private sectors with a range of types of primary care doctors. Recent Hong Kong Government policy aims to enhance the management of LTCs in primary care possibly based on a 'family doctor' model. Patients' views on this are not well documented and the aim of the present study was to explore the views of patients with LTCs on family doctors in Hong Kong.
Methods
The views of patients (with a variety of LTCs) on family doctors in Hong Kong were explored. Two groups of participants were interviewed; a) those who considered themselves as having a family doctor, b) those who considered themselves as not having a family doctor (either with a regular primary care doctor but not a family doctor or with no regular primary care doctor). In-depth individual semi-structured interviews were carried out with 28 participants (10 with a family doctor, 10 with a regular doctor, and 8 with no regular doctor) and analysed using the constant comparative method.
Results
Participants who did not have a family doctor were familiar with the concept but regarded it as a 'luxury item' for the rich within the private healthcare system. Those with a regular family doctor (all private) regarded having one as important to their and their family's health. Participants in both groups felt that as well as the more usual family medicine specialist or general practitioner, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners also had the potential to be family doctors. However most participants attended the public healthcare system for management of their LTCs whether they had a family doctor or not. Cost, perceived need, quality, trust, and choice were all barriers to the use of family doctors for the management of their LTCs.
Conclusions
Important barriers to the adoption of a 'family doctor' model of management of LTCs exist in Hong Kong. Effective policy implementation seems unlikely unless these complex barriers are addressed.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-11-46
PMCID: PMC2889885  PMID: 20525340
2.  Redeeming qualities: exploring factors that affect women’s use of reproductive health vouchers in Cambodia 
Background
One approach to delivering healthcare in developing countries is through voucher programs, where vouchers are distributed to a specific population for free or subsidized health care. Recent evaluations suggest that vouchers have the potential to extend coverage of priority health services to the poor in developing countries. In Cambodia, a reproductive health voucher program was implemented in January 2011. This study aims to explore women’s early experiences accessing health services with their vouchers at accredited clinics.
Methods
This qualitative exploratory study used focus group methodology to gather information from five groups of older (>25 years) and four groups of younger (18–25 years) women who were eligible for the voucher program in three rural provinces. Focus groups were digitally recorded, transcribed and translated from Khmer into English. Data analysis was an iterative process, which comprised of open coding to find commonalities that reflected categories or themes and axial coding to relate initial themes to each other. Next, a basic framework for analysis was formed by integrating the themes into the framework.
Results
Two overarching themes were identified in the data: 1) factors that facilitate voucher use and 2) factors that inhibit voucher use. Within each of these themes, three subthemes were identified: 1) pre-existing factors, 2) distribution factors, and 3) redemption factors. Overall, women expressed positive feelings towards the voucher program, while several areas for program improvement were identified including the importance of addressing pre-existing demand-side barriers to using reproductive health services, the need for more comprehensive counselling during voucher distribution, and the persistent cost of unofficial payments expected by midwives after delivery irrespective of voucher use.
Conclusions
Early information from program beneficiaries can lead to timely and responsive changes that can help to maximize program success. This study highlights the importance of tailoring voucher programs to specific community needs, a strategy that can lead to better program uptake.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-13-13
PMCID: PMC3599041  PMID: 23442446
3.  An assessment of opportunities and challenges for public sector involvement in the maternal health voucher program in Uganda 
Background
Continued inequities in coverage, low quality of care, and high out-of-pocket expenses for health services threaten attainment of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 in many sub-Saharan African countries. Existing health systems largely rely on input-based supply mechanisms that have a poor track record meeting the reproductive health needs of low-income and underserved segments of national populations. As a result, there is increased interest in and experimentation with results-based mechanisms like supply-side performance incentives to providers and demand-side vouchers that place purchasing power in the hands of low-income consumers to improve uptake of facility services and reduce the burden of out-of-pocket expenditures. This paper describes a reproductive health voucher program that contracts private facilities in Uganda and explores the policy and implementation issues associated with expansion of the program to include public sector facilities.
Methods
Data presented here describes the results of interviews of six district health officers and four health facility managers purposefully selected from seven districts with the voucher program in southwestern Uganda. Interviews were transcribed and organized thematically, barriers to seeking RH care were identified, and how to address the barriers in a context where voucher coverage is incomplete as well as opportunities and challenges for expanding the program by involving public sector facilities were investigated.
Results
The findings show that access to sexual and reproductive health services in southwestern Uganda is constrained by both facility and individual level factors which can be addressed by inclusion of the public facilities in the program. This will widen the geographical reach of facilities for potential clients, effectively addressing distance related barriers to access of health care services. Further, intensifying ongoing health education, continuous monitoring and evaluation, and integrating the voucher program with other services is likely to address some of the barriers. The public sector facilities were also seen as being well positioned to provide voucher services because of their countrywide reach, enhanced infrastructure, and referral networks. The voucher program also has the potential to address public sector constraints such as understaffing and supply shortages.
Conclusions
Accrediting public facilities has the potential to increase voucher program coverage by reaching a wider pool of poor mothers, shortening distance to service, strengthening linkages between public and private sectors through public-private partnerships and referral systems as well as ensuring the awareness and buy-in of policy makers, which is crucial for mobilization of resources to support the sustainability of the programs. Specifically, identifying policy champions and consulting with key policy sectors is key to the successful inclusion of the public sector into the voucher program.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-11-38
PMCID: PMC3853937  PMID: 24139603
Challenges; Maternal health; Opportunities; Output-based approach; Public sector engagement; Reproductive health; Vouchers
4.  Age, chronic non-communicable disease and choice of traditional Chinese and western medicine outpatient services in a Chinese population 
Background
In 1997 Hong Kong reunified with China and the development of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) started with this change in national identity. However, the two latest discussion papers on Hong Kong's healthcare reform have failed to mention the role of TCM in primary healthcare, despite TCM's public popularity and its potential in tackling the chronic non-communicable disease (NCD) challenge in the ageing population. This study aims to describe the interrelationship between age, non-communicable disease (NCD) status, and the choice of TCM and western medicine (WM) services in the Hong Kong population.
Methods
This study is a secondary analysis of the Thematic Household Survey (THS) 2005 dataset. The THS is a Hong Kong population representative face to face survey was conducted by the Hong Kong Administrative Region Government of China. A random sample of respondents aged >15 years were invited to report their use of TCM and WM in the past year, together with other health and demographic information. A total of 33,263 persons were interviewed (response rate 79.2%).
Results
Amongst those who received outpatient services in the past year (n = 18,087), 80.23% only visited WM doctors, 3.17% consulted TCM practitioners solely, and 16.60% used both type of services (double consulters). Compared to those who only consulted WM doctor, multinomial logistic regression showed that double consulters were more likely to be older, female, NCD patients, and have higher socioeconomic backgrounds. Further analysis showed that the association between age and double consulting was curvilinear (inverted U shaped) regardless of NCD status. Middle aged (45-60 years) NCD patients, and the NCD free "young old" group (60-75 years) were most likely to double consult. On the other hand, the relationship between age and use of TCM as an alternative to WM was linear regardless of NCD status. The NCD free segment of the population was more inclined to use TCM alone as they become older.
Conclusion
In Hong Kong, most patients have chosen WM provided in the public sector as their sole outpatient service provider for NCD. Amongst TCM service users, middle aged NCD patients are more likely to choose both TCM and WM outpatient services. Meanwhile, older people without NCD are more likely to use TCM as their main form of care, but the size of this population group is small. These utilization patterns show that patients choose both modalities to manage their NCD and TCM should be considered within policies for supporting patients with NCD under the wider primary health and social care system that supports patient choice.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-207
PMCID: PMC2779812  PMID: 19917139
5.  Accelerated reforms in healthcare financing: the need to scale up private sector participation in Nigeria 
The health sector, a foremost service sector in Nigeria, faces a number of challenges; primarily, the persistent under-funding of the health sector by the Nigerian government as evidence reveals low allocations to the health sector and poor health system performance which are reflected in key health indices of the country.Notwithstanding, there is evidence that the private sector could be a key player in delivering health services and impacting health outcomes, including those related to healthcare financing. This underscores the need to optimize the role of private sector in complementing the government’s commitment to financing healthcare delivery and strengthening the health system in Nigeria. There are also concerns about uneven quality and affordability of private-driven health systems, which necessitates reforms aimed at regulation. Accordingly, the argument is that the benefits of leveraging the private sector in complementing the national government in healthcare financing outweigh the challenges, particularly in light of lean public resources and finite donor supports. This article, therefore, highlights the potential for the Nigerian government to scale up healthcare financing by leveraging private resources, innovations and expertise, while working to achieve the universal health coverage.
doi:10.15171/ijhpm.2014.04
PMCID: PMC3937949  PMID: 24596895
Nigeria; Healthcare Financing; Health System; Private Sector
6.  Implementation of an insecticide-treated net subsidy scheme under a public-private partnership for malaria control in Tanzania – challenges in implementation 
Malaria Journal  2009;8:201.
Background
In the past decade there has been increasing visibility of malaria control efforts at the national and international levels. The factors that have enhanced this scenario are the availability of proven interventions such as artemisinin-based combination therapy, the wide scale use of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) and a renewed emphasis in indoor residual house-spraying. Concurrently, there has been a window of opportunity of financial commitments from organizations such as the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), the President's Malaria Initiative and the World Bank Booster programme.
Methods
The case study uses the health policy analysis framework to analyse the implementation of a public-private partnership approach embarked upon by the government of Tanzania in malaria control – 'The Tanzania National Voucher Scheme'- and in this synthesis, emphasis is on the challenges faced by the scheme during the pre-implementation (2001 – 2004) and implementation phases (2004 – 2005). Qualitative research tools used include: document review, interview with key informants, stakeholder's analysis, force-field analysis, time line of events, policy characteristic analysis and focus group discussions. The study is also complemented by a cross-sectional survey, which was conducted at the Rufiji Health Demographic Surveillance Site, where a cohort of women of child-bearing age were followed up regarding access and use of ITNs.
Results
The major challenges observed include: the re-introduction of taxes on mosquito nets and related products, procurement and tendering procedures in the implementation of the GFATM, and organizational arrangements and free delivery of mosquito nets through a Presidential initiative.
Conclusion
The lessons gleaned from this synthesis include: (a) the consistency of the stakeholders with a common vision, was an important strength in overcoming obstacles, (b) senior politicians often steered the policy agenda when the policy in question was a 'crisis event', the stakes and the visibility were high, (c) national stakeholders in policy making have an advantage in strengthening alliances with international organizations, where the latter can become extremely influential in solving bottlenecks as the need arises, and (d) conflict can be turned into an opportunity, for example the Presidential initiative has inadvertently provided Tanzania with important lessons in the organization of 'catch-up' campaigns.
doi:10.1186/1475-2875-8-201
PMCID: PMC3224907  PMID: 19698109
7.  The Future of Medicare Policy Reform 
The Medicare program, the largest health insurance program in the United States, is clearly at a crossroads as it enters its third decade. Historical increases in health care expenditures, plus a changing political and economic landscape, have set the groundwork for policy reform. Two basic reform strategies--reimbursement arrangements and program funding mechanisms--are discussed. In 1983, Congress enacted the Prospective Payment System (PPS) which initiated a fundamental change in the way hospitals are paid for care delivered to Medicare beneficiaries. But the PPS is only a stepping-stone to broader reforms such as capitation and vouchers. In addition, new methods of program funding may be necessary, especially in light of policymakers' considerations of coverage of services such as long term care and organ transplants.
PMCID: PMC2244966
8.  Disseminating a cervical cancer screening program through primary physicians in Hong Kong: a qualitative study 
Background
Organized screening programs are more effective and equitable than opportunistic screening, yet governments face challenges to implement evidence-based programs. The objective of this study was to identify reasons for low levels of adoption among primary care physicians of a government sponsored Cervical Screening Program (CSP).
Methods
We conducted in-depth interviews with a snowball sample of primary care private and public primary care physicians in Hong Kong. Rogers’ theory of diffusion of innovation was used to understand the factors that influenced the physicians’ practice decisions.
Results
Our study found that Hong Kong physicians made the decision to encourage cervical screening and to participate in the CSP based primarily upon their clinical and business practice needs rather than upon the scientific evidence. The low rates of adoption of the CSP can be attributed to the physicians’ perceptions that the program’s complexity and incompatibility exceeded its relative advantages. Furthermore, women’s knowledge, attitudes and practices, identified as barriers by physicians, were also barriers to physicians adopting the CSP.
Conclusions
In both private and public health care systems, screening programs that rely on physicians must align program incentives with the physicians’ motivators or pursue additional demand creation policies to achieve objectives.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-85
PMCID: PMC3975957  PMID: 24568606
Cervical cancer screening; Dissemination; Physicians; Prevention; Screening programs
9.  Measuring fragmentation of ambulatory care in a tripartite healthcare system 
Background
Hong Kong has a tripartite healthcare system, where western medicine provided in both public and private sectors coexist with Chinese medicine practice. The purpose of this study is to measure fragmentation of ambulatory care experienced by the non-institutionalized population aged 15 and over in such a tripartite system, thus shed light on the ongoing primary care reform.
Methods
This is a cross-sectional secondary data analysis using the Thematic Household Survey, which was conducted by the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department during November 2009 to February 2010 to collect territory-wide health-related information. Among 18,226 individuals with two or more ambulatory visits during the past 12 months before interview, we grouped each visit into one of the three care segments—public western, private western and Chinese medicine. Two individual-level measures were used to quantify longitudinal fragmentation of care across segments over the one-year period: Most Frequent Provider Continuity Index (MFPC) and Fragmentation of Care Index (FCI). Both are analyzed for distribution and subgroup comparison. A Tobit model was used to further examine the determinants of fragmentation.
Results
More than a quarter of individuals sought care in two or all three segments, with an average MFPC of 65% and FCI of 0.528. Being older, female, married, unemployed, uninsured, or born in mainland China, with lower education, lower income, higher number of chronic conditions or poorer health were found to have experienced higher fragmentation of care. We also found that, fragmentation of care increased with the total number of ambulatory care visits and it varied significantly depending on what segment the individual chose to visit most frequently—those chose private western clinics had lower FCI, compared with those chose public western or Chinese medicine as the most frequently visited segment.
Conclusions
Even measured at healthcare segment level, people in Hong Kong experienced modest fragmentation of care. Individuals’ health beliefs—as a result of the persistent habitual tendency and latitude incentivized by the system—may be behind the fragmented care we saw. Efforts are needed to alter health beliefs, targeting subgroups of vulnerable population, and create environments that promote better coordinated primary care.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-176
PMCID: PMC3660280  PMID: 23672644
Fragmentation; Continuity of care; Ambulatory care; Chinese medicine; Primary care
10.  Using targeted vouchers and health equity funds to improve access to skilled birth attendants for poor women: a case study in three rural health districts in Cambodia 
Background
In many developing countries, the maternal mortality ratio remains high with huge poor-rich inequalities. Programmes aimed at improving maternal health and preventing maternal mortality often fail to reach poor women. Vouchers in health and Health Equity Funds (HEFs) constitute a financial mechanism to improve access to priority health services for the poor. We assess their effectiveness in improving access to skilled birth attendants for poor women in three rural health districts in Cambodia and draw lessons for further improvement and scaling-up.
Methods
Data on utilisation of voucher and HEF schemes and on deliveries in public health facilities between 2006 and 2008 were extracted from the available database, reports and the routine health information system. Qualitative data were collected through focus group discussions and key informant interviews. We examined the trend of facility deliveries between 2006 and 2008 in the three health districts and compared this with the situation in other rural districts without voucher and HEF schemes. An operational analysis of the voucher scheme was carried out to assess its effectiveness at different stages of operation.
Results
Facility deliveries increased sharply from 16.3% of the expected number of births in 2006 to 44.9% in 2008 after the introduction of voucher and HEF schemes, not only for voucher and HEF beneficiaries, but also for self-paid deliveries. The increase was much more substantial than in comparable districts lacking voucher and HEF schemes. In 2008, voucher and HEF beneficiaries accounted for 40.6% of the expected number of births among the poor. We also outline several limitations of the voucher scheme.
Conclusions
Vouchers plus HEFs, if carefully designed and implemented, have a strong potential for reducing financial barriers and hence improving access to skilled birth attendants for poor women. To achieve their full potential, vouchers and HEFs require other interventions to ensure the supply of sufficient quality maternity services and to address other non-financial barriers to demand. If these conditions are met, voucher and HEF schemes can be further scaled up under close monitoring and evaluation.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-10-1
PMCID: PMC2820432  PMID: 20059767
11.  Analysis of government investment in primary healthcare institutions to promote equity during the three-year health reform program in China 
Background
The World Health Report 2000 stated that increased public financing for healthcare was an integral part of the efforts to achieve equity of access. In 2009, the Chinese government launched a three-year health reform program to achieve equity of access. Through this reform program, the government intended to increase its investment in primary healthcare institutions (PHIs). However, reports about the outcome and the improvement of the equity of access have yet to be presented.
Methods
Stratified sampling was employed in this research. The samples used for the study comprised 34 community health service centers (CHSCs) and 92 township hospitals (THs) from six provinces of China. Collected data, which were publicly available, consisted of the total revenue, financial revenue, and the number of people for the periods covering January 2010 to September 2010 and January 2011 to September 2011. Revenue information for 2009 and 2010 was obtained from China’s Health Statistics Yearbook.
By using indicators such as government investment, government finance proportion and per capita revenue, t-tests for paired and independent samples were used to analyze the changes in government investment.
Results
Government invest large amount of money to the primary healthcare institutions. Government finance proportion in 2008 was 18.2%. This percentage increased to 38.84% in 2011, indicating statistical significance (p = 0.000) between 2010 and 2011. The per capita financial input was 20.92 yuan in 2010 and 31.10 yuan in 2011. Compared with the figures from 2008 to 2010, the gap in different health sectors narrowed in 2011, and differences emerged. The government finance proportion in CHSCs revenue was 6.9% higher than that of THs, while the per capita revenue of CHSCs was higher. In 2011, the highest and lowest government finance proportions were 48.80% (Shaanxi) and 19.36% (Shandong), respectively. In that same year, the per capita revenue of Shaanxi (40.69 Yuan) was higher than that of Liaoning (28.79 Yuan). Comparing the 2011 figures with those from 2008 to 2010, the gap in 2011 clearly narrowed.
Conclusion
In the three-year health reform program, the Chinese government increased its investment to PHIs gradually and significantly. Thus promote equity to access and universal coverage. However, the increase in government investment stemmed from political desire and from the lack of institutionalization of practice and experience. Hence, a mode of financial allocation must be formulated to promote consistency in government input after the three-year health reform program.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-114
PMCID: PMC3614483  PMID: 23530658
12.  Western impressions of the Hong Kong health care system. 
Western Journal of Medicine  1996;165(1-2):37-42.
Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia are initiating health care reform to meet the changing demands of populations with improved socioeconomic status and access to modern technologies and who are living longer than in previous generations. Hong Kong, in particular, is facing a unique set of circumstances as its people prepare for the transition in 1997 from a British colony to a Special Administrative Region of China. While spending only 4% of its gross domestic product on health care, it has a large and regulated public hospital system for most inpatient medical care and a separate, loosely regulated private health care system for most outpatient medical care. In 1993 the Secretary for Health and Welfare of Hong Kong initiated a year-long process to debate the pros and cons of 5 fundamental programs for health care reform. After a year of open consultation, options were chosen. We describe the Hong Kong health care system, the fundamental changes that have been adopted, and lessons for reformers in the United States.
PMCID: PMC1307539  PMID: 8855683
13.  The political economy of healthcare reform in China: negotiating public and private 
SpringerPlus  2013;2:448.
China’s healthcare system is experiencing significant growth from expanded government-backed insurance, greater public-sector spending on hospitals, and the introduction of private insurance and for-profit clinics. An incremental reform process has sought to develop market incentives for medical innovation and liberalize physician compensation and hospital finance while continuing to keep basic care affordable to a large population that pays for many components of care out-of-pocket. Additional changes presently under consideration by policymakers are likely to further restructure insurance and the delivery of care and will alter competitive dynamics in major healthcare industries, notably pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and diagnostic testing. This article describes the institutional history of China’s healthcare system and identifies dilemmas emerging as the country negotiates divisions between public and private in healthcare. Building on this analysis, the article considers opportunities for public-private partnerships and greater systems integration to reconcile otherwise incommensurable approaches to rewarding innovation and improving access. The article concludes with observations on the public function of health insurance and its significance to further development of China’s healthcare system.
doi:10.1186/2193-1801-2-448
PMCID: PMC3776089  PMID: 24052932
China; Healthcare reform; Clinical trials; Electronic medical records; Insurance; Pharmaceuticals
14.  Cross-Sectional Study on Attitudes among General Practitioners towards Pneumococcal Vaccination for Middle-Aged and Elderly Population in Hong Kong 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e78210.
Objective
To study the attitudes among general practitioners towards pneumococcal vaccination for middle-aged (50–64) and elderly population (over 65) in Hong Kong and the factors affecting their decision to advise pneumococcal vaccination for those age groups.
Design
Cross-sectional study of general practitioners in private practice in Hong Kong.
Participants
Members of Hong Kong Medical Association delivering general practice services in private sector.
Measuring Tool
Self-administered questionnaire.
Main Outcome Measures
Intention to recommend pneumococcal vaccination, barriers against pneumococcal vaccination.
Results
53.4% of the respondents would actively recommend pneumococcal vaccination to elderly patients but only 18.8% would recommend for middle-aged patients. Consultation not related to pneumococcal vaccine was the main reason for not recommending pneumococcal vaccine (43.6%). Rarity of pneumonia in their daily practice was another reason with 68.4% of respondents attending five or less patients with pneumonia each year. In multivariate analysis, factors such as respondents would get vaccination when reaching age 50 (ORm 10.1), and attending 6 pneumonia cases or more per year (ORm 2.28) were found to be associated with increasing likelihood for recommending vaccination to the middle-aged. While concerns of marketing a product (ORm 0.41), consultation not related to vaccination (ORm 0.45) and limited time (ORm 0.38) were factors that reduced the likelihood.
Conclusion
Public policy is needed to increase the awareness of impact of pneumococcal pneumonia and the availability of preventive measures.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078210
PMCID: PMC3818320  PMID: 24223775
15.  Prevalence of visual impairment, blindness, and cataract surgery in the Hong Kong elderly 
Background: The prevalence of vision impairment, unilateral/bilateral blindness, and cataract surgery were estimated in a population based survey among the elderly in a suburban area of Hong Kong.
Methods: 15 public, private, and home ownership scheme housing estates in the Shatin area of Hong Kong were subjected to cluster sampling to randomly select a cross section of people 60 years of age or older. Visual acuity measurements and ocular examinations were conducted at a community site within each estate. The principal cause of reduced vision was identified for eyes with presenting visual acuity worse than 6/18.
Results: A total of 3441 subjects from an enumerated population of 4487 (76.7%) completed an eye examination. The prevalence of presenting visual acuity less than 6/18 in at least one eye was 41.3%; and 73.1% in those 80 years of age or older. Unilateral blindness (acuity <6/60) was found in 7.9% of subjects and bilateral blindness in 1.8%. Refractive error and cataract were, respectively, the main causes of vision impairment and blindness. Visual impairment with either eye <6/18 increased with advancing age and was more prevalent in males, the less educated, and those living in public housing estates. The prevalence of cataract surgery was 9.1% and was associated with advancing age and less education.
Conclusions: Blindness and visual disability were common in this socioeconomically advanced population, with most of it easily remedied. Because of a rapidly ageing population, healthcare planners in Hong Kong must prepare for an increasing burden of visual disability and blindness.
PMCID: PMC1771025  PMID: 11815334
visual impairment; cataract surgery; epidemiology; Hong Kong
16.  Oral Health Care Reform in Finland – aiming to reduce inequity in care provision 
BMC Oral Health  2008;8:3.
Background
In Finland, dental services are provided by a public (PDS) and a private sector. In the past, children, young adults and special needs groups were entitled to care and treatment from the public dental services (PDS). A major reform in 2001 – 2002 opened the PDS and extended subsidies for private dental services to all adults. It aimed to increase equity by improving adults' access to oral health care and reducing cost barriers. The aim of this study was to assess the impacts of the reform on the utilization of publicly funded and private dental services, numbers and distribution of personnel and costs in 2000 and in 2004, before and after the oral health care reform. An evaluation was made of how the health political goals of the reform: integrating oral health care into general health care, improving adults' access to care and lowering cost barriers had been fulfilled during the study period.
Methods
National registers were used as data sources for the study. Use of dental services, personnel resources and costs in 2000 (before the reform) and in 2004 (after the reform) were compared.
Results
In 2000, when access to publicly subsidised dental services was restricted to those born in 1956 or later, every third adult used the PDS or subsidised private services. By 2004, when subsidies had been extended to the whole adult population, this increased to almost every second adult. The PDS reported having seen 118 076 more adult patients in 2004 than in 2000. The private sector had the same number of patients but 542 656 of them had not previously been entitled to partial reimbursement of fees.
The use of both public and subsidised private services increased most in big cities and urban municipalities where access to the PDS had been poor and the number of private practitioners was high. The PDS employed more dentists (6.5%) and the number of private practitioners fell by 6.9%. The total dental care expenditure (PDS plus private) increased by 21% during the study period. Private patients who had previously not been entitled to reimbursements seemed to gain most from the reform.
Conclusion
The results of this study indicate that implementation of a substantial reform, that changes the traditionally defined tasks of the public and private sectors in an established oral health care provision system, proceeds slowly, is expensive and probably requires more stringent steering than was the case in Finland 2001 – 2004. However, the equity and fairness of the oral health care provision system improved and access to services and cost-sharing improved slightly.
doi:10.1186/1472-6831-8-3
PMCID: PMC2268684  PMID: 18226197
17.  Impact of Social Franchising on Contraceptive Use When Complemented by Vouchers: A Quasi-Experimental Study in Rural Pakistan 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74260.
Background
Pakistan has had a low contraceptive prevalence rate for the last two decades; with preference for natural birth spacing methods and condoms. Family planning services offered by the public sector have never fulfilled the demand for contraception, particularly in rural areas. In the private sector, cost is a major constraint. In 2008, Marie Stopes Society – a local NGO started a social franchise programme along with a free voucher scheme to promote uptake of IUCDs amongst the poor. This paper evaluates the effectiveness of this approach, which is designed to increase modern long term contraceptive awareness and use in rural areas of Pakistan.
Methodology
We used a quasi-experimental study design with controls, selecting one intervention district and one control district from the Sindh and Punjab provinces. In each district, we chose a total of four service providers. A baseline survey was carried out among 4,992 married women of reproductive age (MWRA) in February 2009. Eighteen months after the start of intervention, an independent endline survey was conducted among 4,003 women. We used multilevel logistic regression for analysis using Stata 11.
Results
Social franchising used alongside free vouchers for long term contraceptive choices significantly increased the awareness of modern contraception. Awareness increased by 5% in the intervention district. Similarly, the ever use of modern contraceptive increased by 28.5%, and the overall contraceptive prevalence rate increased by 19.6%. A significant change (11.1%) was recorded in the uptake of IUCDs, which were being promoted with vouchers.
Conclusion
Family planning franchise model promotes awareness and uptake of contraceptives. Moreover, supplemented with vouchers, it may enhance the use of IUCDs, which have a significant cost attached. Our research also supports a multi-pronged approach- generating demand through counselling, overcoming financial constraints by offering vouchers, training, accreditation and branding of the service providers, and ensuring uninterrupted contraceptive supplies.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074260
PMCID: PMC3772094  PMID: 24069287
18.  Interactions: Trade Policy and Healthcare Reform After Chaoulli v. Quebec 
Healthcare Policy  2006;1(2):90-102.
The insulation of Canada’s healthcare system from trade treaty obligations is crucial to the legitimacy of Canada’s trade policy. Legal analysis has suggested, however, that competitive and for-profit delivery of the kind contemplated by the Kirby Report and some provinces may make healthcare more vulnerable to challenges under NAFTA and GATS. The Government of Canada has tried to counter this interpretation by stressing the importance of public financing as the principal criterion for exemption of healthcare from trade treaties, but now the potential for private financing of essential medical services indicated by the Supreme Court’s decision in Chaoulli v. Quebec has made that line of argument look risky as well. It is apparent that Canada failed to anticipate the possible interactions of domestic, international and constitutional law when it made commitments in the area of private health insurance at the WTO in 1997. Accordingly, the time has come to acknowledge the fragility of the boundary between health and trade policies, to take the risks and costs associated with trade treaty obligations fully into account when undertaking healthcare reform and to strengthen the separation between private and public health insurance.
PMCID: PMC2585326  PMID: 19305659
19.  Evaluation of Immunization Knowledge, Practices, and Service-delivery in the Private Sector in Cambodia 
A study of private-sector immunization services was undertaken to assess scope of practice and quality of care and to identify opportunities for the development of models of collaboration between the public and the private health sector. A questionnaire survey was conducted with health providers at 127 private facilities; clinical practices were directly observed; and a policy forum was held for government representatives, private healthcare providers, and international partners. In terms of prevalence of private-sector provision of immunization services, 93% of the private inpatient clinics surveyed provided immunization services. The private sector demonstrated a lack of quality of care and management in terms of health workers’ knowledge of immunization schedules, waste and vaccine management practices, and exchange of health information with the public sector. Policy and operational guidelines are required for private-sector immunization practices that address critical subject areas, such as setting of standards, capacity-building, public-sector monitoring, and exchange of health information between the public and the private sector. Such public/private collaborations will keep pace with the trends towards the development of private-sector provision of health services in developing countries.
PMCID: PMC2740687  PMID: 18637533
Evaluation studies; Health services; Health-sector reforms; Health systems; Immunization; Private sector; Quality of care; Standards; Cambodia
20.  How much choice is there in housing choice vouchers? Neighborhood risk and free market rental housing accessibility for active drug users in Hartford, Connecticut 
Background
Since the mid-1970s, the dominant model for U.S. federal housing policy has shifted from unit-based programs to tenant based vouchers and certificates, intended to allow recipients a choice in their housing and neighborhoods. Surprisingly little research has examined the question of where those with Section 8 housing vouchers are able to live, but some research suggests that voucher holders are more likely to reside in distressed neighborhoods than unsubsidized renter households. Further, federal housing policy has limited drug users' access to housing subsidies. In turn, neighborhood disorder has been associated with higher levels of injection drug risk behaviors, and higher drug-related mortality. This paper explores rental accessibility and neighborhood characteristics of advertised rental housing in Hartford CT.
Methods
Brief telephone interviews were conducted with landlords or management companies with units to rent in Hartford to explore housing accessibility measured as initial move in costs, credit and criminal background checks, and whether rental subsidies were accepted. These data were supplemented with in-depth interviews with landlords, shelter staff and active users of heroin, crack or cocaine. Apartments for rent were geocoded and mapped using ArcGIS. We used location quotients to identify areas where low-income rental housing is concentrated. Finally, we mapped apartments in relation to drug and violent arrest rates in each neighborhood.
Results
High security deposits, criminal background and credit checks limit housing accessibility even for drug users receiving vouchers. While most landlords or management companies accepted housing subsidies, several did not. Voucher units are concentrated in neighborhoods with high poverty neighborhoods. Landlords reported little incentive to accept rental subsidies in neighborhoods with low crime rates, but appreciated the guarantee provided by Section 8 in high crime neighborhoods that were less likely to attract applicants with good jobs and credit.
Conclusion
Housing vouchers in themselves do not greatly improve recipients' choice of neighborhood and voucher units are concentrated in the most distressed neighborhoods. Policy changes are needed to increase landlords' incentives to accept housing subsidies. Interventions to improve neighborhood conditions are needed to improve the probability of success for those recovering from drug addictions.
doi:10.1186/1747-597X-4-5
PMCID: PMC2678101  PMID: 19368713
21.  Comparison of primary care experiences among adults in general outpatient clinics and private general practice clinics in Hong Kong 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:397.
Background
The main goal of Hong Kong's publicly-funded general outpatient clinics (GOPCs) is to provide primary medical services for the financially vulnerable. The objective of the current study was to compare the primary care experiences of GOPC users and the users of care provided by private general practitioners (GPs) in Hong Kong via a territory-wide telephone survey.
Methods
One thousand adults in Hong Kong aged 18 and above were interviewed by a telephone survey. The modified Chinese translated Primary Care Assessment Tool was used to collect data on respondents' primary care experience.
Results
Our results indicated that services provided by GOPC were more often used by female, older, poorer, chronically-ill and less educated population. GOPC participants were also more likely to have visited a specialist or used specialist services (69.7% vs. 52.0%; p < 0.001), although this difference in utilization of specialist services disappeared after adjusting for age (55.7% vs. 52.0%, p = 0.198). Analyses were also performed to asses the relationship between healthcare settings (GOPCs versus private GPs) and primary care quality. Private GP patients achieved higher overall PCAT scores largely due to better accessibility (Mean: 6.88 vs. 8.41, p < 0.001) and person-focused care (Mean: 8.37 vs. 11.69, p < 0.001).
Conclusions
Our results showed that patients primarily receiving care from private GPs in Hong Kong reported better primary care experiences than those primarily receiving care from GOPCs. This was largely due to the greater accessibility and better interpersonal relationships offered by the private GPs. As most patients use both GOPCs and private GPs, their overall primary care experiences may not be as different as the findings of this study imply.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-397
PMCID: PMC2908092  PMID: 20602806
22.  Effects of demand-side financing on utilisation, experiences and outcomes of maternity care in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review 
Background
Demand-side financing, where funds for specific services are channelled through, or to, prospective users, is now employed in health and education sectors in many low- and middle-income countries. This systematic review aimed to critically examine the evidence on application of this approach to promote maternal health in these settings. Five modes were considered: unconditional cash transfers, conditional cash transfers, short-term payments to offset costs of accessing maternity services, vouchers for maternity services, and vouchers for merit goods. We sought to assess the effects of these interventions on utilisation of maternity services and on maternal health outcomes and infant health, the situation of underprivileged women and the healthcare system.
Methods
The protocol aimed for collection and synthesis of a broad range of evidence from quantitative, qualitative and economic studies. Nineteen health and social policy databases, seven unpublished research databases and 27 websites were searched; with additional searches of Indian journals and websites. Studies were included if they examined demand-side financing interventions to increase consumption of services or goods intended to impact on maternal health, and met relevant quality criteria. Quality assessment, data extraction and analysis used Joanna Briggs Institute standardised tools and software. Outcomes of interest included maternal and infant mortality and morbidity, service utilisation, factors required for successful implementation, recipient and provider experiences, ethical issues, and cost-effectiveness. Findings on Effectiveness, Feasibility, Appropriateness and Meaningfulness were presented by narrative synthesis.
Results
Thirty-three quantitative studies, 46 qualitative studies, and four economic studies from 17 countries met the inclusion criteria. Evidence on unconditional cash transfers was scanty. Other demand-side financing modes were found to increase utilisation of maternal healthcare in the index pregnancy or uptake of related merit goods. Evidence of effects on maternal and infant mortality and morbidity outcomes was insufficient. Important implementation aspects include targeting and eligibility criteria, monitoring, respectful treatment of beneficiaries, suitable incentives for providers, quality of care and affordable referral systems.
Conclusions
Demand-side financing schemes can increase utilisation of maternity services, but attention must be paid to supply-side conditions, the fine-grain of implementation and sustainability. Comparative studies and research on health impact and cost-effectiveness are required.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-30
PMCID: PMC3897964  PMID: 24438560
Demand-side financing; Maternal health; Vouchers; Cash transfers; Narrative synthesis; Qualitative; Systematic review
23.  Effectiveness of involving the private medical sector in the National TB Control Programme in Bangladesh: evidence from mixed methods 
BMJ Open  2012;2(6):e001534.
Objectives
In Bangladesh, private healthcare is common and popular, regardless of income or area of residence, making the private sector an important player in health service provision. Although the private sector offers a good range of health services, tuberculosis (TB) care in the private sector is poor. We conducted research in Dhaka, between 2004 and 2008, to develop and evaluate a public–private partnership (PPP) model to involve private medical practitioners (PMPs) within the National TB Control Programme (NTP)'s activities. Since 2008, this PPP model has been scaled up in two other big cities, Chittagong and Sylhet. This paper reports the results of this development, evaluation and scale-up.
Design
Mixed method, observational study design. We used NTP service statistics to compare the TB control outcomes between intervention and control areas. To capture detailed insights of PMPs and TB managers about the process and outcomes of the study, we conducted in-depth interviews, focus group discussions and workshops.
Setting
Urban setting, piloted in four areas in Dhaka city; later scaled up in other areas of Dhaka and in two major cities.
Findings
The partnership with PMPs yielded significantly increased case finding of sputum smear-positive TB cases. Between 2004 and 2010, 703 participating PMPs referred 3959 sputum smear-positive TB cases to the designated Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course (DOTS) centres, contributing about 36% of all TB cases in the project areas. There was a steady increase in case notification rates in the project areas following implementation of the partnership.
Conclusions
The PPP model was highly effective in improving access and quality of TB care in urban settings.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001534
PMCID: PMC3532984  PMID: 23253871
Public Health
24.  A qualitative study of patients' views on quality of primary care consultations in Hong Kong and comparison with the UK CARE Measure 
BMC Family Practice  2009;10:10.
Background
Patients' priorities and views on quality care are well-documented in Western countries but there is a dearth of research in this area in the East. The aim of the present study was to explore Chinese patients' views on quality of primary care consultations in Hong Kong and to compare these with the items in the CARE measure (a process measure of consultation quality widely used in the UK) in order to assess the potential utility of the CARE measure in a Chinese population.
Methods
Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted on 21 adult patients from 3 different primary care clinics (a public primary healthcare clinic, a University health centre, and a private family physician's clinic). Topics discussed included expectations, experiences, and views about quality of medical consultations. Interviews were typed verbatim, and a thematic approach was taken to identify key issues. These identified issues were then compared with the ten CARE measure items, using a CARE framework: Connecting (Care Measure items 1–3), Assessing (item 4), Responding (items 5,6), and Empowering (items 7–10).
Results
Patients judged doctors in terms of both the process of the consultation and the perceived outcomes. Themes identified that related to the interpersonal process of the consultation fitted well under the CARE framework; Connecting and communicating (18/21 patients), Assessing holistically (10/21 patients), Responding (18/21 patients) and Empowering (19/21 patients). Patients from the public clinic, who were generally of lower socio-economic status, were least likely to expect holistic care or empowerment. Two-thirds of patients also judged doctors on whether they performed an adequate physical examination, and three-quarters on the later outcomes of consultation (in terms of relief or cure and/or side-effects of prescribed drugs).
Conclusion
These findings suggest that Chinese patients in Hong Kong value engaged, empathic primary care doctors and judge the quality of consultations largely on these human skills and the attitudes and values that underpin them, as well as on the perceived outcomes of treatment. The match between themes relating to consultation process and the CARE Measure items suggests utility of this measure in this population, but further quantitative validation is required.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-10-10
PMCID: PMC2633320  PMID: 19173724
25.  Evaluation of the impact of the voucher and accreditation approach on improving reproductive behaviors and RH status: Bangladesh 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:257.
Background
Cost of delivering reproductive health services to low-income populations will always require total or partial subsidization by the government and/or development partners. Broadly termed "Demand-Side Financing" or "Output-Based Aid", includes a range of interventions that channel government or donor subsidies to the service user rather than the service provider. Initial findings from the few assessments of reproductive health voucher-and-accreditation programs suggest that, if implemented well, these programs have great potential for achieving the policy objectives of increasing access and use, reducing inequities and enhancing program efficiency and service quality. At this point in time, however, there is a paucity of evidence describing how the various voucher programs function in different settings, for various reproductive health services.
Methods/Design
Population Council-Nairobi, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, intends to address the lack of evidence around the pros and cons of 'voucher and accreditation' approaches to improving the reproductive health of low income women in five developing countries. In Bangladesh, the activities will be conducted in 11 accredited health facilities where Demand Side Financing program is being implemented and compared with populations drawn from areas served by similar non-accredited facilities. Facility inventories, client exit interviews and service provider interviews will be used to collect comparable data across each facility for assessing readiness and quality of care. In-depth interviews with key stakeholders will be conducted to gain a deeper understanding about the program. A population-based survey will also be carried out in two types of locations: areas where vouchers are distributed and similar locations where vouchers are not distributed.
Discussion
This is a quasi-experimental study which will investigate the impact of the voucher approach on improving maternal health behaviors and status and reducing inequities at the population level. We expect a significant increase in the utilization of maternal health care services by the accredited health facilities in the experimental areas compared to the control areas as a direct result of the interventions. If the voucher scheme in Bangladesh is found effective, it may help other countries to adopt this approach for improving utilization of maternity care services for reducing maternal mortality.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-257
PMCID: PMC3103455  PMID: 21513528

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