The impact of governance in primary health care delivery: a systems thinking approach with a European panel.

TitleThe impact of governance in primary health care delivery: a systems thinking approach with a European panel.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsEspinosa-González, ABelén, Delaney, BC, Marti, J, Darzi, A
JournalHealth research policy and systems
Date Published07/2019
Keywordsdecentralisation, Delphi study, Financing, framework, governance, Primary Health Care, regulation

BACKGROUND: Enhancing primary health care (PHC) is considered a policy priority for health systems strengthening due to PHC's ability to provide accessible and continuous care and manage multimorbidity. Research in PHC often focuses on the effects of specific interventions (e.g. physicians' contracts) in health care outcomes. This informs narrowly designed policies that disregard the interactions between the health functions (e.g. financing and regulation) and actors involved (i.e. public, professional, private), and their impact in care delivery and outcomes. The purpose of this study is to analyse the interactions between PHC functions and their impact in PHC delivery, particularly in providers' behaviour and practice organisation.

METHODS: Following a systems thinking approach with data obtained through a three-round European Delphi process, we developed a framework that captures (1) the interactions between PHC functions by analysing correlations between PHC characteristics of participating countries, (2) how actors involved shaped these interactions by identifying the actor and level of devolution (or fragmentation) in the analysis, and (3) their potential effect on care delivery by exploring panellists' opinions.

RESULTS: A total of 59 panellists from 24 countries participated in the first round and 76% of the initial panellists (22 countries) completed the last round. Findings show correlations between governance, financing and regulation based on their degree of decentralisation. This is supported by panellists, who agreed that the actors involved in health system governance determine the type of PHC financing (e.g. ownership or payment mechanisms) and regulation (e.g. competences or gatekeeping), and this may impact care delivery and outcomes. Governance in our framework is an overarching function whose impact in PHC delivery is mediated through the degree of decentralisation (both delegation and devolution) of PHC financing and regulation.

CONCLUSIONS: The application of this approach in policy implementation assessment intends to uncover limitations due to poor accountability and commitment to shared objectives. Its application in the design of health strategies helps foresee (and prevent) undesired or unexpected effects of narrow interventions. This approach will assist in the development of the realistic and long-term policies required for health systems strengthening.

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Alternate JournalHealth Res Policy Syst
Citation Key / SERVAL ID9695
Peer reviewRefereed
PubMed ID31272472
PubMed Central IDPMC6609383
Grant List1215-20013 / / National Institute for Health Research /


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