Assessing the choice of National Health Insurance Fund contracted outpatient facilities in Kenya: A qualitative study

Kazungu J, Nonvignon J, Quaife M, Barasa E
Int J Health Plann Manage. 2023;

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OBJECTIVE: To assess National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) members' level of understanding, experiences, and factors influencing their choice of NHIF-contracted outpatient facilities in Kenya. METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional qualitative study with NHIF members in two purposefully selected counties (Nyeri and Makueni counties) in Kenya. We collected data through 15 focus group discussions with NHIF members. Data were analysed using a framework analysis approach. RESULTS: Urban-based NHIF members had a good understanding of the NHIF-contracted outpatient facility selection process and the approaches for choosing and changing providers, unlike their rural counterparts. While NHIF members were required to choose a provider before accessing care, the number of available alternative facilities was perceived to be inadequate. Finally, NHIF members identified seven factors they considered important when choosing an NHIF-contracted outpatient provider. Of these factors, the availability of drugs, distance from the household to the facility and waiting time at the facility until consultation were considered the most important. CONCLUSION: There is a need for the NHIF to prioritise awareness-raising approaches tailored to rural settings. Further, there is a need for the NHIF to contract more providers to both spur competition among providers and provide alternatives for members to choose from. Besides, NHIF members revealed the important factors they consider when selecting outpatient facilities. Consequently, NHIF should leverage the preferred factors when contracting healthcare providers. Similarly, healthcare providers should enhance the availability of drugs, reduce waiting times whilst improving their staff's attitudes which would improve user satisfaction and the quality of care provided.