Quality or equality? The Norwegian experience with medical monopolies
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionBMC Health Services Research 2007, 7(1):20 10.1186/1472-6963-7-20
Background: In order to maintain both quality and efficiency of health services in a small country with a scattered population, Norway established a monopoly system for 38 highly specialized medical services. The geographical distributions of these services, which are provided by one or two university hospitals only, were analysed. Methods: The counties of residence for 2 711 patients admitted for the first time in 2001 to these 31 monopolies and 7 duopolies were identified. Results: The general tendency observed was that with increasing distance from residential home to monopoly hospitals there was a declining coverage of these health services. The same pattern was found even with regard to explicit diagnoses or treatments such as organ transplantations (except renal transplantations). Duopolies seemed to yield a more even geographical distribution of the services. Conclusion: Monopolies may serve as a useful means for maintaining quality in highly specialized medical services, but seem to have an inherent tendency to do this at the expense of geographical equality.