Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

Dutch Hospital Industry

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Jun• 29•09

What are hospitals like in the Netherlands?  A paper by Blank and Van Hulst (2009) give some insight.  The paper studies Dutch general hospitals.  These hospitals make up 80% of beds on 70% of hospital costs.  Non-general hospitals include academic hospitals and specialty hospitals (e.g., eye clinics and rehabilitation clinics).

Hospitals in the Netherlands

“Hospitals, like other health-related institutions in The Netherlands, are owned and operated predominantly by locally controlled, private not-for-profit foundations (stichtingen).” [Saltman and de Roo (1989)]  The hospital sector in general is highly regulated.  Provider wages are regulated.  The central government regulates capacity and provides prospective payment budget.

Budgets consist of a fixed component related to capacity and a variable component related to production. The fixed component is based on the so-called adherence (the number of patients potentially using the hospital), the number of beds, and the number of associated physicians. The production related component is based on regional agreements on the numbers of first-time visits, inpatient days, daycare patient days, and the number of discharges.

Severity of cases and the type of specialists on staff can also affect budgets as well.  This budget, however, is a legal and not a monetary measure.  Insurance companies pay the hospital through prices set by the Central Tariffs Health Care agency.  Hospitals can not make a profit, but surplus revenue can go towards capital improvements.

Another important feature of the Dutch hospital sector is that hospitals cannot choose their patients.Patients are referred to a hospital by general practitioners. They choose a hospital with a convenient location compared with other hospitals and based on availability of the appropriate specialties.Hospitals are obliged to treat any patient presented to them, provided that they have the medical knowledge required for the treatment. In practice, hospitals can attract patients by supplying particular specialties or a high quality of care. This implies that expansion of high-tech medical treatments may be another goal.

Statistics and Trends

Statistics on the Dutch hospital industry can be found in this table.  We see that the number of general hospitals decreased from 109 in 1995 to 89 2002.  This was due to both closures and mergers.  First-time hospital visits increased at an annual rate of 4% per year, but the number of inpatient days decrease by about 4% per year.  This indicates a trend towards fewer overnight hospital stays.  Overall, costs rose by more than 6% per year in nominal terms or about 4% in real terms.

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