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The Effect of Financial Incentives on Quality Measures in the Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus: a Randomized Controlled Trial

Meier R, Chmiel C, Valeri F, Muheim L, Senn O, Rosemann T

Journal of General Internal Medicine volume 37, pages 556–564 (2022)


Financial incentives are often used to improve quality of care in chronic care patients. However, the evidence concerning the effect of financial incentives is still inconclusive. To test the effect of financial incentives on quality measures (QMs) in the treatment of patients with diabetes mellitus in primary care. We incentivized a clinical QM and a process QM to test the effect of financial incentives on different types of QMs and to investigate the spill-over effect on non-incentivized QMs.


Parallel cluster randomized controlled trial based on electronic medical records database involving Swiss general practitioners (GPs). Practices were randomly allocated. All participants received a bimonthly feedback report. The intervention group additionally received potential financial incentives on GP level depending on their performance. Between-group differences in proportions of patients fulfilling incentivized QM (process QM of annual HbA1c measurement and clinical QM of blood pressure level below 140/95 mmHg) after 12 months.


Seventy-one GPs (median age 52 years, 72% male) from 43 different practices and subsequently 3838 patients with diabetes mellitus (median age 70 years, 57% male) were included. Proportions of patients with annual HbA1c measurements remained unchanged (intervention group decreased from 79.0 to 78.3%, control group from 81.5 to 81.0%, OR 1.09, 95% CI 0.90–1.32, p = 0.39). Proportions of patients with blood pressure below 140/95 improved from 49.9 to 52.5% in the intervention group and decreased from 51.2 to 49.0% in the control group (OR 1.16, 95% CI 0.99–1.36, p = 0.06). Proportions of non-incentivized process QMs increased significantly in the intervention group.


GP level financial incentives did not result in more frequent HbA1c measurements or in improved blood pressure control. Interestingly, we could confirm a spill-over effect on non-incentivized process QMs. Yet, the mechanism of spill-over effects of financial incentives is largely unclear.

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