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Portuguese Journal of Public Health

Print version ISSN 2504-3137On-line version ISSN 2504-3145


PERELMAN, Julian et al. Portuguese Mental Health System: Critical Evaluation of the Providers' Payment Model. Port J Public Health [online]. 2017, vol.35, n.3, pp.11-26. ISSN 2504-3137.

The 2007–2016 National Plan of Mental Health points out several limitations of the mental health Portuguese system, such as bad access, a healthcare excessively concentrated on hospitals, lack of resources, and insufficient prevention. One way of dealing with such problems is to design a new model of payment to mental healthcare providers, which is only possible if we know the current model, its strengths and weaknesses, and the incentives it creates. That is what we do in this paper, with a special focus on primary and secondary care, on the basis of the theoretical and empirical literature, and the realization of a focus group with national mental health and financing experts. We conclude that primary care services have few incentives to be involved in the prevention and treatment of mental health disorders, as they benefit from conducting a large number of short-duration consultations and from reaching goals not related to mental health. The payment of “Entidade Pública Empresarial” hospitals is highly focused on the activity level and less on care integration. It includes a fee that depends on the number of days or episodes of inpatient stays, or on the number of medical acts, which makes it difficult for hospitals to have a global view of the patients' health status. However, the indicators defined for these providers and the inexistence of a cost reimbursement mechanism favor efficiency in healthcare provision. Community healthcare, which the literature defends to be effective, is incentivized by a specific fee, which, however, does not seem to be used in practice. In general, although having some interesting features, the current payment model for mental healthcare providers will benefit from a redesign which leads providers to have a global view of the patients' health status and to make an effective use of community care.

Keywords : Mental health; Payment models; Incentives; Primary care; Secondary care.

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