Effectiveness of a monetary incentive on general practitioners' behaviour of promoting HIV testing for pregnant women in the private sector
Background: Early HIV testing is a crucial step for pregnant women in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. In the public sector nearly all pregnant women presenting at antenatal clinics are screened for HIV. However, according to a large medical-aid administrator in South Africa, only 21.96% of pregnant women on their medical aid claimed for an HIV test as part of their antenatal care in 2012. Despite having frequent opportunities when consulting with pregnant women, general practitioners tend to be reluctant to offer HIV screening to these privately insured patients. In South Africa, private sector general practitioners are reimbursed for their services at pre-determined, negotiated rates. Previous studies indicate that monetary incentives over and above the negotiated rate may motivate health providers to promote screening to patients, and this may lead to increases in the uptake of testing. Due to limited resources within the public health sector, general practitioners are seen as key resources in a public private partnership to assist government achieve strategic health outcomes such as improved access to quality healthcare and improved compliance to treatment plans. Methodology: A quasi-experimental, ‘before and after’ study design, was conducted among 2,934 Metropolitan Health network general practitioners in South Africa who managed a pregnant woman on a medical aid. The same populations of general practitioners were used in the pre and post analysis with the general practitioners receiving information about the benefits of HIV testing in pregnant women before and after. The only difference was with the intervention related to a new HIV Counselling and Testing incentive process. Data was extracted from the billing system of a private medical insurance company in South Africa>. Quantitative data and stratification was analysed using the Statistical Package for the Social Science software, version 16.0 and Epi Info version 18.104.22.168. The effectiveness of the intervention was assessed by comparing the pre intervention period between April 2011 and September 2012, and post intervention period between March 2013 and August 2014. A subgroup analysis was done to determine variations in the name it, by general practitioners and patient characteristics. Results: There was no significant difference in HIV testing by general practitioners in this network preand post the intervention (21.99% vs. 21.96%, p=0.939). Compared to general practitioners aged 25-44 years, general practitioners older than 65 years old were 13% less likely to test (OR 0.87, CI: 0.74-1.01) and general practitioners between 45 and 65 years were 9% less likely to do an HIV test (OR 0.91, CI: 0.85-0.98). This study found that as patients’ age increased, they were more likely to be tested: beneficiaries aged 35- 44 years were 15% more likely to be tested compared to beneficiaries aged 15-24 years (OR 1.15, CI: 1.1-1.21). Beneficiaries who had a vaginal delivery were less likely to be tested compared to women who chose caesarean as a delivery method (OR 0.87, CI: 0.84-0.9). Medium income beneficiaries were more likely to be tested compared to low income beneficiaries (OR 1.09 CI: 1.03-1.16) and beneficiaries from the “high income” scheme grouping were less likely to be tested (OR 0.87, CI: 0.82-0.92) compared to the low income scheme grouping. The timing and frequency rates of HIV testing, for both caesarean and vaginal deliveries, occurred most between months two and six, peaking at month four. Overall, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga had the lowest testing rates compared to all the other provinces (OR 0.96 CI: 0.89-1.05). Conclusions: Most general practitioners’ HIV testing rates of pregnant women in the private sector behaviour analysed in this study remained the same, despite the presence of a financial incentive. This study’s findings suggest that healthcare provider behaviour to comply with clinical guidelines and best practice, has no association with the presence of financial incentives, especially with increased administration tasks to access the incentive. These study findings emphasise the need to continue to strive for improved compliance especially by older general practitioners’ to adhere to clinical best practice and national HIV screening guidelines of pregnant women. The aspiration of achieving the highest quality of care in both private and public sector are principles that should continue to be pursued especially where private sector general practitioners’ will be used to offer public health services in the future National Health Insurance.