Journal Article

Analytical methods to assess the impacts of activity-based funding (ABF): a scoping review

May 18, 2021

Health Economic Review, Vol. 11, No. 17, 2021

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Activity-Based Funding (ABF) has been implemented across many countries as a means to incentivise efficient hospital care delivery and resource use. Previous reviews have assessed the impact of ABF implementation on a range of outcomes across health systems. However, no comprehensive review of the methods used to generate this evidence has been undertaken. The aim of this review is to identify and assess the analytical methods employed in research on ABF hospital performance outcomes.


We conducted a scoping review in line with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for scoping reviews. Five academic databases and reference lists of included studies were used to identify studies assessing the impact of ABF on hospital performance outcomes. Peer-reviewed quantitative studies published between 2000 and 2019 considering ABF implementation outside the U.S. were included. Qualitative studies, policy discussions and commentaries were excluded. Abstracts and full text studies were double screened to ensure consistency. All analytical approaches and their relative strengths and weaknesses were charted and summarised.


We identified 19 studies that assessed hospital performance outcomes from introduction of ABF in England, Korea, Norway, Portugal, Israel, the Netherlands, Canada, Italy, Japan, Belgium, China, and Austria. Quasi-experimental methods were used across most reviewed studies. The most commonly used assessment methods were different forms of interrupted time series analyses. Few studies used difference-in-differences or similar methods to compare outcome changes over time relative to comparator groups. The main hospital performance outcome measures examined were case numbers, length of stay, mortality and readmission.


Non-experimental study designs continue to be the most widely used method in the assessment of ABF impacts. Quasi-experimental approaches examining the impact of ABF implementation on outcomes relative to comparator groups not subject to the reform should be applied where possible to facilitate identification of effects. These approaches provide a more robust evidence-base for informing future financing reform and policy.