Population Health Study brings new insights about Austrians
Austrian patients use health services more frequently than a few years ago. They prefer to go directly to the specialist and consult less frequently than before with a general practitioner (GP) in advance.
This is one of the key findings of a new cross-sectional study from Austria. The Population Health Study, published in the European Journal of Public Health on 1 April, examined the access points of Austrian patients to the healthcare system and their use of health services at the various levels of Austrian health care.
Study compares population data from 2007 and 2014
For the comparative study, population data from the years 2006/2007 were compared with those from 2014 in order to be able to determine the development between the two survey periods, differences and possible trends in health care.
A total of almost 15,800 patients were interviewed for each of the two Austrian health surveys.
In addition, demographic factors such as the geographical region of the place of residence, age, gender, family situation, country of origin or migration background and level of education were taken into account.
The cross-sectional comparison of the collected data should show changes in user behaviour, and the main purpose of the current study was to monitor access to health services over time.
The results at a glance
According to the study and a press release of the European Society of Public Health (EUPHA) from mid-April, the use of health services in Austria has increased from 2006/2007 to 2014.
The access to specialists rose even by 10.8 percent and the use of outpatient hospital services by 4.1 percent, according to the EUPHA. In both cases, patients consulted the specialists without previous visits to the GP.
The study among dermatologists showed a particular increase with an increase of around 10.3 percent in patient visits without a previous visit to the family doctor. But also internists, ophthalmologists and other specialists were frequently visited in advance without GPs.
The bigger trend
Although the health care system in Austria and the possible access of patients has not changed, there has been an increase in the use of health services by secondary care providers - with a lower percentage of patients first consulting and transferring to the GP.
This is a cause for concern with regard to cost reductions and the quality of care, EUPHA said. The Population Health study thus points to a possible trend away from primary medical care as a direct entry point into health care.
The study was published in the European Journal of Public Health and linked to in a press release by the Austrian Society for Public Health (ÖGPH), a member of the European Public Health Association (EUPHA) since 2000.
More information can be found here.
Anna Engberg is a Wiesbaden-based freelance journalist specialising in health and technology.