EU comparison: Austrians go more often to the doctor but are not healthier

January 8, 2014
EU comparison: Austrians go more often to the doctor but are not healthier
EU comparison: Austrians go more often to the doctor but are not healthier

Mr and Mrs Austria visit specialists, outpatient clinics and hospitals particularly often when compared with the rest of Europe. However, health and life expectation do not profit from this accordingly. Kathryn Hoffmann, a public health expert at the MedUni Vienna, therefore recommends a re-evaluation of the general practitioner.

"The use of the Austrian system is very high and uncoordinated in comparison with other EU countries," explains Kathryn Hoffmann from the Department of General and Family Medicine at the Centre for Public Health at the MedUni Vienna. This is, however, not reflected in better health or a higher "life expectation in ". For example, Austria lies under the EU 27-average with regard to "life expectation in good health" from 65 years onwards. On the other hand, the countless visits to specialists and outpatient clinics lead to above average costs.

According to Hoffman this would be rectified by general practitioners performing an obligatory coordinating function as numerous examples from other EU countries with better results demonstrate. Says Hoffmann: "General practitioners could, for instance, help their patients navigate the ever more complex health system and thus avoid multiple, unnecessary and stressful investigations and treatments."

According to a study led by Hoffmann, which was published this year in the leading journal, the European Journal of Public Health, the percentage of Austrians, who visit consultants in outpatient clinics at least once a year, lies at 67.4%. However, in countries such as Norway (17%), Ireland (24.8%) or the Netherlands (12.8%) the percentage is clearly much lower.

The possibility of visiting a specialist directly without a prior consultation with and referral from a general practitioner is also used intensively: almost every sixth person who visits a specialist at least once a year, every eleventh person who visits an outpatients' clinic and every twelfth person who had a hospital stay, did not consult a in the same period.

The authors of the study see the cause of this in a lack of coordination in the Austrian . They think this could even have negative consequences for patients. Says Hoffmann: "For example, relevant health problems could be overlooked if the diagnostics are only being carried out in one particular direction and the overview of the individuals concerned is lost." Furthermore, a lack of coordination often results in unnecessary investigations that take it out of people and are even risky, or in prescriptions for medications which are not optimally adjusted for each other.

Explore further: NPs practicing without restrictions could lower costs

More information: "Access points to the different levels of health care and demographic predictors in a country without a gatekeeping system. Results of a cross-sectional study from Austria." Hoffmann K, Stein KV, Maier M, Rieder A, Dorner TE. Eur J Public Health. 2013 Jan 31.

Related Stories

NPs practicing without restrictions could lower costs

December 13, 2013

(HealthDay)—Independently practicing nurse practitioners (NPs) seeing patients at retail health clinics can cut health care costs, according to a study published in the November issue of Health Affairs.

Stress in the orchestra: Mood plays a part

December 23, 2013

Even professional orchestra musicians suffer from particular stress on the day of the concert and release more cortisol. For the first time it has now been possible to demonstrate that, amongst others, the enzyme myeloperoxidase, ...

Better financing for mental healthcare

August 30, 2013

In 2008, the EU officially recognised mental health is a human right, while describing the overall level of mental health and well-being in Europe as a key resource for its success as a knowledge-based society and economy.

Visits to multiple HIV clinics linked to poorer outcomes

October 9, 2013

Patients who received care at multiple HIV clinics—as opposed to only one— were less likely to take their medication and had higher HIV viral loads, a new study published in the journal AIDS and Behavior of almost 13,000 ...

Recommended for you

Exercise and vitamin D better together for heart health

April 27, 2017

Johns Hopkins researchers report that an analysis of survey responses and health records of more than 10,000 American adults for nearly 20 years suggests a "synergistic" link between exercise and good vitamin D levels in ...

'Diet' products can make you fat, study shows

April 25, 2017

High-fat foods are often the primary target when fighting obesity, but sugar-laden "diet" foods could be contributing to unwanted weight gain as well, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jan 09, 2014
This appears to be a problem of *how* medical advice is gained rather than the frequency.

Outpatient clinics are inferior to consultation with one's own GP as one's own doctor can provide continuity of care.

Yearly checkup is recommended for for most people. Why would such a consultation be done at an outpatient clinic?? It does not make sense...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.