Purpose: This study aimed to compare technical efficiency of general practice (GP) delivered by the twenty Regions of Italy's decentralized healthcare system and to determine if it was affected by contextual factors. Methods: First, we calculated the Regional efficiency scores by means of Data Envelopment Analysis. Then we carried out a regression analysis to investigate the influence of contextual factors on the efficiency in the provision of GP services. Results: Six Northern Regions were identified as efficient using the best combinations of general practitioners to deliver a given level of GP outcomes. Compared with peer benchmarks, inefficient Regions used more (on-call and regular) general practitioners with important underproductions of outputs (e.g. avoidable hospitalizations). The regression analysis showed a negative relationship between efficiency and the Regional total health care expenditures as percentage of its Gross Domestic Product. Discussion: Improving efficiency of GP services delivery is likely to result in reduced health expenditures. Since there is a general tendency in Europe to decentralize governmental systems of countries and Italy can be seen as an extreme example of this trend, we consider our findings of high relevance for international comparative studies on performance of primary care systems. © 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.
- Data envelopment analysis