Contracting Out of Health Services for Province-level Integration of Healthcare System: Effect on Equity
Background. The recently enacted Universal Health Care (UHC) Act prioritizes the provision of a comprehensive set of quality and accessible services. However, the devolution of health services has led to inequitable investments in healthcare resulting to disparities in health outcomes between areas. One of the strategies considered that could minimize these differences is the contracting out of health services to the private sector. This review focuses on mapping equity-related issues and concerns with regard to contracting out health services.
Methods. A modified systematic search of literature using published journal articles through PubMed and Google Scholar and other pertinent reports and manuals was conducted on issues of equity and health service contracting.
Results and Discussion. There is currently a dearth of literature on the effect of contracting services on health equity outcomes, particularly on the impact of contracting out on equity. Limited studies showed that contracting out can potentially improve equity by increasing service utilization. Mechanisms on how contracting out could potentially affect equity were also found.
Results mainly suggest that concrete steps should be taken to ensure equitable access and improvement in health outcomes among population subgroups. To provide a framework in applying possible insights from the review, discussion of the literature review was framed in the context of establishing performance-based contracting. It was emphasized that including representatives from the underserved populations and patient groups during stakeholder consultations were crucial to provide localized context for the inclusive development of contracting arrangements. Other strategies that were highlighted included: establishing monitoring systems that disaggregate data between groups, selecting contractors that have the capacity to reach and provide services to the underserved, and making sure that these contractors are also open to data sharing for economic evaluation of services.
Conclusion and Recommendations. Despite the paucity of data on the impact of contracting out services on equity, mechanisms explaining the effect of contracting on equity were put forward and illustrated. These findings can be considered by policy makers and program developers in the operationalization of service agreements between the public and private sectors.