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1.  Market competition and price of disease management programmes: an observational study 
Managed competition was introduced into the health care system in several countries including the Netherlands, although effects of competition of both providers and health insurers on the price of health care are inconclusive. We investigated the association between competition of both providers (care groups) and health insurers and the price of disease management programmes (DMPs).
Data from 76 DMP contractual agreements for type II diabetes mellitus in 2008, 2009 and 2010 were used to analyse the association between market competition and the price of DMPs. Market competition was calculated per municipal health services region (GGD). Insurer market competition was measured by the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI), care group competition by the number of care groups and the care group market share of GPs. The effect of competition was cross-sectionally studied with linear regression analyses.
Insurer market concentration (HHI) and care group market share were not associated with the price of DMPs. The number of care groups in a GGD region was associated with a lower price (−€4.68; 95% CI: −8.36 - -1.00). The mean difference in the price of DMPs between health insurers was €58.
The price of DMPs seems to be more dependent on the particular health insurer than on market conditions. For competition among health insurers and provider groups to develop, preconditions such as selective contracting and option for patient to change provider should be in place.
PMCID: PMC4219132  PMID: 25359224
Managed competition; Disease management programmes; Price; Netherlands; Health insurance
2.  Acceptance of selective contracting: the role of trust in the health insurer 
In a demand oriented health care system based on managed competition, health insurers have incentives to become prudent buyers of care on behalf of their enrolees. They are allowed to selectively contract care providers. This is supposed to stimulate competition between care providers and both increase the quality of care and contain costs in the health care system. However, health insurers are reluctant to implement selective contracting; they believe their enrolees will not accept this. One reason, insurers believe, is that enrolees do not trust their health insurer. However, this has never been studied. This paper aims to study the role played by enrolees’ trust in the health insurer on their acceptance of selective contracting.
An online survey was conducted among 4,422 people insured through a large Dutch health insurance company. Trust in the health insurer, trust in the purchasing strategy of the health insurer and acceptance of selective contracting were measured using multiple item scales. A regression model was constructed to analyse the results.
Trust in the health insurer turned out to be an important prerequisite for the acceptance of selective contracting among their enrolees. The association of trust in the purchasing strategy of the health insurer with acceptance of selective contracting is stronger for older people than younger people. Furthermore, it was found that men and healthier people accepted selective contracting by their health insurer more readily. This was also true for younger people with a low level of trust in their health insurer.
This study provides insight into factors that influence people’s acceptance of selective contracting by their health insurer. This may help health insurers to implement selective contracting in a way their enrolees will accept and, thus, help systems of managed competition to develop.
PMCID: PMC3850712  PMID: 24083663
Health insurer; Trust; Managed competition; Selective contracting
3.  Understanding and using comparative healthcare information; the effect of the amount of information and consumer characteristics and skills 
Consumers are increasingly exposed to comparative healthcare information (information about the quality of different healthcare providers). Partly because of its complexity, the use of this information has been limited. The objective of this study was to examine how the amount of presented information influences the comprehension and use of comparative healthcare information when important consumer characteristics and skills are taken into account.
In this randomized controlled experiment, comparative information on total hip or knee surgery was used as a test case. An online survey was distributed among 800 members of the NIVEL Insurants Panel and 76 hip- or knee surgery patients. Participants were assigned to one of four subgroups, who were shown 3, 7, 11 or 15 quality aspects of three hospitals. We conducted Kruskall-Wallis tests, Chi-square tests and hierarchical multiple linear regression analyses to examine relationships between the amount of information and consumer characteristics and skills (literacy, numeracy, active choice behaviour) on one hand, and outcome measures related to effectively using information (comprehension, perceived usefulness of information, hospital choice, ease of making a choice) on the other hand.
414 people (47%) participated. Regression analysis showed that the amount of information slightly influenced the comprehension and the perceived usefulness of comparative healthcare information. It did not affect consumers’ hospital choice and ease of making this choice. Consumer characteristics (especially age) and skills (especially literacy) were the most important factors affecting the comprehension of information and the ease of making a hospital choice. For the perceived usefulness of comparative information, active choice behaviour was the most influencing factor.
The effects of the amount of information were not unambiguous. It remains unclear what the ideal amount of quality information to be presented would be. Reducing the amount of information will probably not automatically result in more effective use of comparative healthcare information by consumers. More important, consumer characteristics and skills appeared to be more influential factors contributing to information comprehension and use. Consequently, we would suggest that more emphasis on improving consumers’ skills is needed to enhance the use of comparative healthcare information.
PMCID: PMC3483238  PMID: 22958295
Healthcare consumers; Comparative healthcare information; Amount of information; Sociodemographic characteristics; Literacy; Numeracy
4.  Consumer evaluation of complaint handling in the Dutch health insurance market 
How companies deal with complaints is a particularly challenging aspect in managing the quality of their service. In this study we test the direct and relative effects of service quality dimensions on consumer complaint satisfaction evaluations and trust in a company in the Dutch health insurance market.
A cross-sectional survey design was used. Survey data of 150 members of a Dutch insurance panel who lodged a complaint at their healthcare insurer within the past 12 months were surveyed. The data were collected using a questionnaire containing validated multi-item measures. These measures assess the service quality dimensions consisting of functional quality and technical quality and consumer complaint satisfaction evaluations consisting of complaint satisfaction and overall satisfaction with the company after complaint handling. Respondents' trust in a company after complaint handling was also measured. Using factor analysis, reliability and validity of the measures were assessed. Regression analysis was used to examine the relationships between these variables.
Overall, results confirm the hypothesized direct and relative effects between the service quality dimensions and consumer complaint satisfaction evaluations and trust in the company. No support was found for the effect of technical quality on overall satisfaction with the company. This outcome might be driven by the context of our study; namely, consumers get in touch with a company to resolve a specific problem and therefore might focus more on complaint satisfaction and less on overall satisfaction with the company.
Overall, the model we present is valid in the context of the Dutch health insurance market. Management is able to increase consumers' complaint satisfaction, overall satisfaction with the company, and trust in the company by improving elements of functional and technical quality. Furthermore, we show that functional and technical quality do not influence consumer satisfaction evaluations and trust in the company to the same extent. Therefore, it is important for managers to be aware of the type of consumer satisfaction they are measuring when evaluating the handling of complaints within their company.
PMCID: PMC3250957  PMID: 22085762
5.  Regulated competition in health care: Switching and barriers to switching in the Dutch health insurance system 
In 2006, a number of changes in the Dutch health insurance system came into effect. In this new system mobility of insured is important. The idea is that insured switch insurers because they are not satisfied with quality of care and the premium of their insurance. As a result, insurers will in theory strive for a better balance between price and quality. The Dutch changes have caught the attention, internationally, of both policy makers and researchers. In our study we examined switching behaviour over three years (2007-2009). We tested if there are differences in the numbers of switchers between groups defined by socio-demographic and health characteristics and between the general population and people with chronic illness or disability. We also looked at reasons for (not-)switching and at perceived barriers to switching.
Switching behaviour and reasons for (not-)switching were measured over three years (2007-2009) by sending postal questionnaires to members of the Dutch Health Care Consumer Panel and of the National Panel of people with Chronic illness or Disability. Data were available for each year and for each panel for at least 1896 respondents - a response of between 71% and 88%.
The percentages of switchers are low; 6% in 2007, 4% in 2008 and 3% in 2009. Younger and higher educated people switch more often than older and lower educated people and women switch more often than men. There is no difference in the percentage of switchers between the general population and people with chronic illness or disability. People with a bad self-perceived health, and chronically ill and disabled, perceive more barriers to switching than others.
The percentages of switchers are comparable to the old system. Switching is not based on quality of care and thus it can be questioned whether it will lead to a better balance between price and quality. Although there is no difference in the frequency of switching among the chronically ill and disabled and people with a bad self-perceived health compared to others, they do perceive more barriers to switching. This suggests there are inequalities in the new system.
PMCID: PMC3112070  PMID: 21569225
6.  Do decision support systems influence variation in prescription? 
Translating scientific evidence into daily practice is problematic. All kinds of intervention strategies, using educational and/or directive strategies, aimed at modifying behavior, have evolved, but have been found only partially successful. In this article the focus is on (computerized) decision support systems (DSSs). DSSs intervene in physicians' daily routine, as opposed to interventions that aim at influencing knowledge in order to change behavior. We examined whether general practitioners (GPs) are prescribing in accordance with the advice given by the DSS and whether there is less variation in prescription when the DSS is used.
Data were used from the Second Dutch National Survey of General Practice (DNSGP2), collected in 2001. A total of 82 diagnoses, 749811 contacts, 133 physicians, and 85 practices was included in the analyses. GPs using the DSS daily were compared to GPs who do not use the DSS. Multilevel analyses were used to analyse the data. Two outcome measures were chosen: whether prescription was in accordance with the advice of the DSS or not, and a measure of concentration, the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI).
GPs who use the DSS daily prescribe more according to the advice given in the DSS than GPs who do not use the DSS. Contradictory to our expectation there was no significant difference between the HHIs for both groups: variation in prescription was comparable.
We studied the use of a DSS for drug prescribing in general practice in the Netherlands. The DSS is based on guidelines developed by the Dutch College of General Practitioners and implemented in the Electronic Medical Systems of the GPs. GPs using the DSS more often prescribe in accordance with the advice given in the DSS compared to GPs not using the DSS. This finding, however, did not mean that variation is lower; variation is the same for GPs using and for GPs not using a DSS. Implications of the study are that DSSs can be used to implement guidelines, but that it should not be expected that variation is limited.
PMCID: PMC2662826  PMID: 19183464
7.  Is networking different with doctors working part-time? Differences in social networks of part-time and full-time doctors 
Part-time working is a growing phenomenon in medicine, which is expected to influence informal networks at work differently compared to full-time working. The opportunity to meet and build up social capital at work has offered a basis for theoretical arguments.
Twenty-eight teams of medical specialists in the Netherlands, including 226 individuals participated in this study. Interviews with team representatives and individual questionnaires were used. Data were gathered on three types of networks: relationships of consulting, communication and trust. For analyses, network and multilevel applications were used. Differences between individual doctors and between teams were both analysed, taking the dependency structure of the data into account, because networks of individual doctors are not independent. Teams were divided into teams with and without doctors working part-time.
Results and Discussion
Contrary to expectations we found no impact of part-time working on the size of personal networks, neither at the individual nor at the team level. The same was found regarding efficient reachability. Whereas we expected part-time doctors to choose their relations as efficiently as possible, we even found the opposite in intended relationships of trust, implying that efficiency in reaching each other was higher for full-time doctors. But we found as expected that in mixed teams with part-time doctors the frequency of regular communication was less compared to full-time teams. Furthermore, as expected the strength of the intended relationships of trust of part-time and full-time doctors was equally high.
From these findings we can conclude that part-time doctors are not aiming at efficiency by limiting the size of networks or by efficient reachability, because they want to contact their colleagues directly in order to prevent from communication errors. On the other hand, together with the growth of teams, we found this strategy, focussed on reaching all colleagues, was diminishing. And our data confirmed that formalisation was increasing together with the growth of teams.
PMCID: PMC2583974  PMID: 18834545
8.  Variation in Hospital Length of Stay: Do Physicians Adapt Their Length of Stay Decisions to What Is Usual in the Hospital Where They Work? 
Health Services Research  2006;41(2):374-394.
To test the hypothesis that physicians who work in different hospitals adapt their length of stay decisions to what is usual in the hospital under consideration.
Data Sources
Secondary data were used, originating from the Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System (SPARCS). SPARCS is a major management tool for assisting hospitals, agencies, and health care organizations with decision making in relation to financial planning and monitoring of inpatient and ambulatory surgery services and costs in New York state.
Study Design
Data on length of stay for surgical interventions and medical conditions (a total of seven diagnosis-related groups [DRGs]) were studied, to find out whether there is more variation between than within hospitals. Data (1999, 2000, and 2001) from all hospitals in New York state were used. The study examined physicians practicing in one hospital and physicians practicing in more than one hospital, to determine whether average length of stay differs according to the hospital of practice. Multilevel models were used to determine variation between and within hospitals. A t-test was used to test whether length of stay for patients of each multihospital physician differed from the average length of stay in each of the two hospitals.
Principal Findings
There is significantly (p<.05) more variation between than within hospitals in most of the study populations. Physicians working in two hospitals had patient lengths of stay comparable with the usual practice in the hospital where the procedure was performed. The proportion of physicians working in one hospital did not have a consistent effect for all DRGs on the variation within hospitals.
Physicians adapt to their colleagues or to the managerial demands of the particular hospital in which they work. The hospital and broader work environment should be taken into account when developing effective interventions to reduce variation in medical practice.
PMCID: PMC1702523  PMID: 16584454
Length of stay; variation; hospitals; multihospital physicians
9.  The Dutch health insurance reform: switching between insurers, a comparison between the general population and the chronically ill and disabled 
On 1 January 2006 a number of far-reaching changes in the Dutch health insurance system came into effect. In the new system of managed competition consumer mobility plays an important role. Consumers are free to change their insurer and insurance plan every year. The idea is that consumers who are not satisfied with the premium or quality of care provided will opt for a different insurer. This would force insurers to strive for good prices and quality of care. Internationally, the Dutch changes are under the attention of both policy makers and researchers. Questions answered in this article relate to switching behaviour, reasons for switching, and differences between population categories.
Postal questionnaires were sent to 1516 members of the Dutch Health Care Consumer Panel and to 3757 members of the National Panel of the Chronically ill and Disabled (NPCD) in April 2006. The questionnaire was returned by 1198 members of the Consumer Panel (response 79%) and by 3211 members of the NPCD (response 86%). Among other things, questions were asked about choices for a health insurer and insurance plan and the reasons for this choice.
Young and healthy people switch insurer more often than elderly or people in bad health. The chronically ill and disabled do not switch less often than the general population when both populations are comparable on age, sex and education.
For the general population, premium is more important than content, while the chronically ill and disabled value content of the insurance package as well. However, quality of care is not important for either group as a reason for switching.
There is increased mobility in the new system for both the general population and the chronically ill and disabled. This however is not based on quality of care. If reasons for switching are unrelated to the quality of care, it is hard to believe that switching influences the quality of care. As yet there are no signs of barriers to switch insurer for the chronically ill and disabled. This however could change in the future and it is therefore important to monitor changes.
PMCID: PMC2287167  PMID: 18366678
10.  Internal medicine specialists' attitudes towards working part-time: a comparison between 1996 and 2004 
Although medical specialists traditionally hold negative views towards working part-time, the practice of medicine has evolved. Given the trend towards more part-time work and that there is no evidence that it compromises the quality of care, attitudes towards part-time work may have changed as well in recent years. The aim of this paper was to examine the possible changes in attitudes towards part-time work among specialists in internal medicine between 1996 and 2004. Moreover, we wanted to determine whether these attitudes were associated with individual characteristics (age, gender, investments in work) and whether attitudes of specialists within a partnership showed more resemblance than specialists' attitudes from different partnerships.
Two samples were used in this study: data of a survey conducted in 1996 and in 2004. After selecting internal medicine specialists working in general hospitals in The Netherlands, the sample consisted of 219 specialists in 1996 and 363 specialists in 2004. They were sent a questionnaire, including topics on the attitudes towards part-time work.
Internal medicine specialists' attitudes towards working part-time became slightly more positive between 1996 and 2004. Full-time working specialists in 2004 still expressed concerns regarding the investments of part-timers in overhead tasks, the flexibility of task division, efficiency, communication and continuity of care. In 1996 gender was the only predictor of the attitude, in 2004 being a full- or a part-timer, age and the time invested in work were associated with this attitude. Furthermore, specialists' attitudes were not found to cluster much within partnerships.
In spite of the increasing number of specialists working or preferring to work part-time, part-time practice among internal medicine specialists seems not to be fully accepted. The results indicate that the attitudes are no longer gender based, but are associated with age and work aspects such as the number of hours worked. Though there is little evidence to support them, negative ideas about the consequences of part-time work for the quality of care still exist. Policy should be aimed at removing the organisational difficulties related to part-time work and create a system in which part-time practice is fully integrated and accepted.
PMCID: PMC1617100  PMID: 17026741
11.  Part-time and full-time medical specialists, are there differences in allocation of time? 
An increasing number of medical specialists prefer to work part-time. This development can be found worldwide. Problems to be faced in the realization of part-time work in medicine include the division of night and weekend shifts, as well as communication between physicians and continuity of care. People tend to think that physicians working part-time are less devoted to their work, implying that full-time physicians complete a greater number of tasks. The central question in this article is whether part-time medical specialists allocate their time differently to their tasks than full-time medical specialists.
A questionnaire was sent by mail to all internists (N = 817), surgeons (N = 693) and radiologists (N = 621) working in general hospitals in the Netherlands. Questions were asked about the actual situation, such as hours worked and night and weekend shifts. The response was 53% (n = 411) for internists, 52% (n = 359) for surgeons, and 36% (n = 213) for radiologists. Due to non-response on specific questions there were 367 internists, 316 surgeons, and 71 radiologists included in the analyses. Multilevel analyses were used to analyze the data.
Part-time medical specialists do not spend proportionally more time on direct patient care. With respect to night and weekend shifts, part-time medical specialists account for proportionally more or an equal share of these shifts. The number of hours worked per FTE is higher for part-time than for full-time medical specialists, although this difference is only significant for surgeons.
In general, part-time medical specialists do their share of the job. However, we focussed on input only. Besides input, output like the numbers of services provided deserves attention as well. The trend in medicine towards more part-time work has an important consequence: more medical specialists are needed to get the work done. Therefore, a greater number of medical specialists have to be trained. Part-time work is not only a female concern; there are also (international) trends for male medical specialists that show a decline in the number of hours worked. This indicates an overall change in attitudes towards the number of hours medical specialists should work.
PMCID: PMC1409779  PMID: 16515698
12.  Does managed care make a difference? Physicians' length of stay decisions under managed and non-managed care 
In this study we examined the influence of type of insurance and the influence of managed care in particular, on the length of stay decisions physicians make and on variation in medical practice.
We studied lengths of stay for comparable patients who are insured under managed or non-managed care plans. Seven Diagnosis Related Groups were chosen, two medical (COPD and CHF), one surgical (hip replacement) and four obstetrical (hysterectomy with and without complications and Cesarean section with and without complications). The 1999, 2000 and 2001 – data from hospitals in New York State were used and analyzed with multilevel analysis.
Average length of stay does not differ between managed and non-managed care patients. Less variation was found for managed care patients. In both groups, the variation was smaller for DRGs that are easy to standardize than for other DRGs.
Type of insurance does not affect length of stay. An explanation might be that hospitals have a general policy concerning length of stay, independent of the type of insurance of the patient.
PMCID: PMC368442  PMID: 15028122

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