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Improving the Quality of Health Care when Health Workers are in Short Supply

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  • Ottar Mæstad
  • Gaute Torsvik

Abstract

A number of low- and middle-income countries have a severe shortage of health workers. This paper studies how health workers' choices of labour supply and work effort impact on the quality of health services when health workers are in short supply. We analyse how policy measures such as monetary incentives, monitoring, provisions of quality-enhancing inputs, and the building of professionalism and organizational identity can improve the quality of health care in the presence of a health worker shortage. We find that to pay health workers based on the number of patients may have a positive impact on the quality of health care even if quality does not affect demand. Furthermore, provision of quality-enhancing drugs and equipment may reduce health workers' effort in delivering quality care, thus diminishing the positive impact of such interventions. Our most surprising result is that if the actual quality of health care is far below a professional standard, measures to build a professional mindset among health workers may reduce the quality of care.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute), Bergen, Norway in its series CMI Working Papers with number 12.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:chm:wpaper:wp2008-12

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  1. Ching-to Albert Ma, 1994. "Health Care Payment Systems: Cost and Quality Incentives," Papers 0047, Boston University - Industry Studies Programme.
  2. Das, Jishnu & Hammer, Jeffrey, 2005. "Money for nothing : the dire straits of medical practice in Delhi, India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3669, The World Bank.
  3. Abhijit Banerjee & Esther Duflo, 2006. "Addressing Absence," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 117-132, Winter.
  4. Tore Ellingsen & Magnus Johannesson, 2007. "Paying Respect," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(4), pages 135-150, Fall.
  5. Nazmul Chaudhury & Jeffrey Hammer & Michael Kremer & Karthik Muralidharan & F. Halsey Rogers, 2006. "Missing in Action: Teacher and Health Worker Absence in Developing Countries," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 91-116, Winter.
  6. Woodward, Robert S. & Warren-Boulton, Frederick, 1984. "Considering the effects of financial incentives and professional ethics on `appropriate' medical care," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 223-237, December.
  7. Ma, Ching-to Albert & McGuire, Thomas G, 1997. "Optimal Health Insurance and Provider Payment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(4), pages 685-704, September.
  8. Martin Gaynor & James B. Rebitzer & Lowell J. Taylor, 2004. "Physician Incentives in Health Maintenance Organizations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(4), pages 915-931, August.
  9. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2005. "Identity and the Economics of Organizations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 9-32, Winter.
  10. Kenneth L. Leonard & Melkiory C. Masatu & Alexandre Vialou, 2007. "Getting Doctors to Do Their Best: The Roles of Ability and Motivation in Health Care Quality," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(3).
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Cited by:
  1. J. Michelle Brock & Andreas Lange & Kenneth L. Leonard, 2012. "Generosity norms and intrinsic motivation in health care provision: evidence from the laboratory and the field," Working Papers 147, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Office of the Chief Economist.
  2. Leonard, Kenneth L. & Masatu, Melkiory C., 2008. "Using the Hawthorne Effect to Examine the Gap Between a Doctor's Best Possible Practice and Actual Performance," Working Papers 36693, University of Maryland, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
  3. Leonard, Kenneth L. & Masatu, Melkiory C., 2008. "Professionalism, Latent Professionalism and Organizational Demands for Health Care Quality in a Developing Country," Working Papers 42883, University of Maryland, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

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