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Do private hospitals outperform public hospitals regarding efficiency, accessibility, and quality of care in the European Union? A literature review



Do private hospitals outperform public hospitals regarding efficiency, accessibility, and quality of care in the European Union? A literature review



International Journal of Health Planning and Management 33(2): E434-E453



European countries have enhanced the scope of private provision within their health care systems. Privatizing services have been suggested as a means to improve access, quality, and efficiency in health care. This raises questions about the relative performance of private hospitals compared with public hospitals. Most systematic reviews that scrutinize the performance of the private hospitals originate from the United States. A systematic overview for Europe is nonexisting. We fill this gap with a systematic realist review comparing the performance of public hospitals to private hospitals on efficiency, accessibility, and quality of care in the European Union. This review synthesizes evidence from Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Greece, Austria, Spain, and Portugal. Most evidence suggests that public hospitals are at least as efficient as or are more efficient than private hospitals. Accessibility to broader populations is often a matter of concern in private provision: Patients with higher social-economic backgrounds hold better access to private hospital provision, especially in private parallel systems such as the United Kingdom and Greece. The existing evidence on quality of care is often too diverse to make a conclusive statement. In conclusion, the growth in private hospital provision seems not related to improvements in performance in Europe. Our evidence further suggests that the private (for-profit) hospital sector seems to react more strongly to (financial) incentives than other provider types. In such cases, policymakers either should very carefully develop adequate incentive structures or be hesitant to accommodate the growth of the private hospital sector.

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Accession: 058757746

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PMID: 29498430

DOI: 10.1002/hpm.2502


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