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Using the free choice of hospital system reduces waiting times

Patients who make use of the free choice of hospital scheme experience shorter waiting times, but there are still big differences between hospitals in terms of waiting times. - Better guidance from the health service will reduce waiting times for many patients, says Auditor General Jørgen Kosmo.
Published 10/20/2011 12:35 PM

Document 3:3 (2011-2012) The Office of the Auditor General’s investigation into the free choice of hospital system was submitted to the Storting on 20 October 2011.

The investigation shows that the primary reason why patients exercise their right to free choice of hospital is that their GP has informed them about the system. Nearly half the patients were not given this information by their GPs. Nor do the patients receive adequate information from hospitals about the possibility of shortening waiting times by changing hospitals – despite the fact that many hospitals have long waiting times for many types of treatment. The system is used most by patients with high incomes and higher education who are in employment.

- We cannot have a situation in which the patients, in addition to their own illnesses and complaints, also have to familiarise themselves with the relevant legislation in order to safeguard their own rights. It is the health service's responsibility to provide information and help patients to find a suitable place of treatment. The health service can thereby help to ensure that the free choice of hospital system safeguards the interests and needs of all patients, says Mr Kosmo.

The Ministry of Health and Care Services must ensure that GPs and hospitals make more active use of the free choice of hospital system in order to achieve health policy goals. Better guidance can contribute to the provisions of the Patients' Rights Act concerning free hospital choice combining the goals of increased patient participation in decision-making and equal access to health services. At the same time, increased utilisation of the free choice of hospital system can help to improve utilisation of the specialist health service's capacity. - Hospitals’ managements have an important responsibility to establish procedures that ensure that patients receive the necessary information about the possibilities for swifter treatment that the system provides, says Mr Kosmo.

The Office of the Auditor General's investigation also shows that, in order to give patients a better basis for making decisions concerning choice of hospital, the scheme's website – www.frittsykehusvalg.no – needs to be improved with more reliable, up-to-date, relevant and realistic information.

The Ministry of Health and Care Services states that it has on a number of occasions pointed to the important role of the GP as the patient's adviser in connection with choice of hospital. Moreover, a project has been initiated in the Norwegian Directorate of Health for the purpose of presenting actual waiting times on the website. The Norwegian Directorate of Health has also been tasked with developing more indicators of treatment outcome for different groups of diseases for use by health care professionals and managers at different levels, as well as for the general public.

The document can be downloaded via the link on the right.

The deferral of public access to documents prepared by or for the Office of the Auditor General in connection with Document 3:3 (2011-2012), cf. the Act relating to the Office of the Auditor General section 18 second paragraph, is hereby set aside.

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