Objective In October 2013, the South Korean government introduced an incentive programme to increase the availability of Saturday treatment at clinics, hoping to increase the role of primary care providers as gatekeepers to medical care. To the best of our knowledge, no one has yet investigated this programme's effect on overall outpatient care. Our study aims to analyse the change in Saturday outpatient volume and billings in clinics that adopted the Saturday incentive programme. Setting Our study used 3 types of data from the period October 2012 to March 2014: National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) claims data, hospital evaluation data and medical institution data. Participants These data consisted of 66â €...825â €...881 outpatient cases from 2837 clinics. Interventions Introducing the Saturday incentive programme. Outcome measure We performed a multilevel analysis that adjusted for clinic-level and outpatient-level variables to examine the difference in the percentage of Saturday outpatient volume and billings after introducing the Saturday incentive programme. Results The percentages of Saturday outpatient volume and billings were higher after introducing the programme (outpatient volume: β=2.065, p<0.001; outpatient billings: β=3.518, p<0.001). In addition, outpatient volume and billings on Friday and Saturday increased after introducing the programme, while those on weekdays, excluding Friday, decreased. Conclusions Our findings suggest that the Saturday incentive programme has affected clinic outpatient care and is a worthwhile health policy in terms of promoting primary care. Thus, it may improve healthcare accessibility and quality of care, and prevent inappropriate usage such as emergency room visits by providing patients with weekend clinic hours.
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