Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

HERO Online Working Paper Series,
University of Oslo, Health Economics Research Programme

No 2018:1: The effect of a mystery shopper scheme on prescriptions in primary care

Roland Cheo , Ge Ge , Geir Godager (), Rugang Liu , Qiqi Wang and Jian Wang
Additional contact information
Roland Cheo: 1Center for Economic Research, Shandong University, China
Ge Ge: Department of Health Management and Health Economics, Postal: HERO / Department of Health Management and Health Economics, P.O. Box 1089 Blindern, NO-0317 Oslo, Norway
Geir Godager: Department of Health Management and Health Economics, Postal: HERO / Department of Health Management and Health Economics, P.O. Box 1089 Blindern, NO-0317 Oslo, Norway
Rugang Liu: 4Center for Health Economic Experiments and Public Policy, School of Public Health, Shandong University
Qiqi Wang: School of Economics, Shandong University, China
Jian Wang: Center for Health Economic Experiments and Public Policy, School of Public Health, Shandong University

Abstract: Health care systems in many countries are still characterized by limited availability of provider performance data which can be used to design and implement welfare improving reforms in the health sector. We question whether a simple mystery shopper scheme can be an effective measure to improve primary care quality in such settings. Using a randomized treatment-control design, we conduct a field experiment in primary care clinics in a Chinese city. We investigate whether informing clinics in the treatment group of a forthcoming mystery shopper audit influences the physicians’ prescribing behavior. As expected, we find that antibiotic medications are prescribed to patients in the majority of cases, even though such prescribing is not in accordance with current recommendations or guidelines. While the intervention did not cause significant reduction in antibiotic prescriptions, our results show that a mystery shopper scheme reduces overall unnecessary prescribing.

Keywords: Field Experiment; Analysis of Health Care Markets; Government Policy; Information and Product Quality; Social Responsibility.

JEL-codes: C93; I11; I18; L15; M14

28 pages, March 16, 2018

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