Effect of physician-specific pay-for-performance incentives in a large group practice.

Sukyung Chung, Latha P. Palaniappan, Laurel M. Trujillo, Haya R. Rubin, Harold S. Luft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To assess the effect of a physician-specific pay-for-performance program on quality-of-care measures in a large group practice. STUDY DESIGN: In 2007, Palo Alto Medical Clinic, a multispecialty physician group practice, changed from group-focused to physician-specific pay-for-performance incentives. Primary care physicians received incentive payments based on their quarterly assessed performance. METHODS: We examined 9 reported and incentivized clinical outcome and process measures. Five reported and nonincentivized measures were used for comparison purposes. The quality score of each physician for each measure was the main dependent variable and was calculated as follows: Quality Score = (Patients Meeting Target / Eligible Patients) x 100. Differences in scores between 2006 and 2007 were compared with differences in scores between 2005 and 2006. We also compared the performance of Palo Alto Medical Clinic with that of 2 other affiliated physician groups implementing group-level incentives. RESULTS: Eight of 9 reported and incentivized measures showed significant improvement in 2007 compared with 2006. Three measures showed an improvement trend significantly better than the previous year's trend. A similar improvement trend was observed in 1 related measure that was reported but was nonincentivized. However, the improvement trend of Palo Alto Medical Clinic was not consistently different from that of the other 2 physician groups. CONCLUSIONS: Small financial incentives (maximum, $5000/year) based on individual physicians' performance may have led to continued or enhanced improvement in well-established ambulatory care measures. Compared with other quality improvement programs having alternative foci for incentives (eg, increasing support for staff hours), the effect of physician-specific incentives was not evident.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Managed Care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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