Background Private providers dominate health care in India and provide most tuberculosis (TB) care. Yet efforts to engage private providers were viewed as unsustainably expensive. Three private provider engagement pilots were implemented in Patna, Mumbai and Mehsana in 2014 based on the recommendations in the National Strategic Plan for TB Control, 2012–17. These pilots sought to improve diagnosis and treatment of TB and increase case notifications by offering free drugs and diagnostics for patients who sought care among private providers, and monetary incentives for providers in one of the pilots. As these pilots demonstrated much higher levels of effectiveness than previously documented, we sought to understand program implementation costs and predict costs for their national scale-up. Methods and findings We developed a common cost structure across these three pilots comprising fixed and variable cost components. We conducted a retrospective, activity-based costing analysis using programmatic data and qualitative interviews with the respective program managers. We estimated the average recurring costs per TB case at different levels of program scale for the three pilots. We used these cost estimates to calculate the budget required for a national scale up of such pilots. The average cost per privately-notified TB case for Patna, Mumbai and Mehsana was estimated to be US$95, US$110 and US$50, respectively, in May 2016 when these pilots were estimated to cover 50%, 36% and 100% of the total private TB patients, respectively. For Patna and Mumbai pilots, the average cost per case at full scale, i.e. 100% coverage of private TB patients, was projected to be US$91 and US$101, respectively. In comparison, the national TB program’s budget for 2015 averages out to $150 per notified TB case. The total annual additional budget for a national scale up of these pilots was estimated to be US$267 million. Conclusions As India seeks to eliminate TB, extensive national engagement of private providers will be required. The cost per privately-notified TB case from these pilots is comparable to that already being spent by the public sector and to the projected cost per privately-notified TB case required to achieve national scale-up of these pilots. With additional funds expected to execute against national TB elimination commitments, the scale-up costs of these operationally viable and effective private provider engagement pilots are likely to be financially viable.
Deo, S., Jindal, P., Gupta, D., Khaparde, S., Rade, K., Sachdeva, K. S., … Dewan, P. (2019). What would it cost to scale-up private sector engagement efforts for tuberculosis care? Evidence from three pilot programs in India. PLoS ONE, 14(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0214928