Costs and efficiency of gatekeeping under varying numbers of general practitioners

Björn Blöndal*, Tinna Laufey Ásgeirsdóttir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


We study the relationship between gatekeeping on one hand and costs as well as efficiency on the other hand. We do this with special focus on the relative amount of general practitioners in the system when compared with all practitioners. Data collected between 2002 and 2011 by The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on 34 countries were analyzed. Of those, 18 countries have gatekeeping systems while 16 do not. The association between gatekeeping and health care costs was examined with regression analysis. Efficiency was assessed with data envelopment analysis. Finally, the efficiency assessments were analyzed with regression techniques to examine if gatekeeping and/or the ratio of GPs to all practitioners was associated with efficiency. Point estimates indicate that total costs tend to be lower in systems where GPs act as gatekeepers. However, efficiency is slightly lower where gatekeeping exists. Neither of these results is statistically significant at the 95% confidence level. There is also indication that the efficiency of a gatekeeping system increases with increased amount of GPs. When GPs are over 30% of practitioners, gatekeeping countries have more efficient health care systems than their counterparts. Consistent with other studies, we estimate income elasticity of health care demand to be 1.12, suggesting that those societies consider health care to be a luxury good.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-156
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Health Planning and Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Other keywords

  • costs
  • efficiency
  • gatekeeping
  • GPs
  • primary care


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