Supplier-induced demand for urgent after-hours primary care services

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Health Economics (United Kingdom), 2018, 27 (10), pp. 1594 - 1608
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Copyright © 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Australia is one of nine Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries that utilise deputising services to provide after-hours primary care. While the provision of this service is supposed to be on behalf of regular general practitioners, businesses have adapted to the financial incentives on offer and are directly advertising their services to consumers emphasising patient convenience and no copayments. The introduction of corporate entities has changed the way that deputising services operate. We use a difference-in-difference approach to estimate the amount of growth in urgent after-hours services that was not warranted by urgent medical need. These estimates are calculated by comparing the growth in urgent attendances that occurred during times of the day that are classified as “after-hours” (e.g., 6 pm–11 pm Monday to Friday) with those that are classified as “unsociable-hours” (e.g., 11 pm–7 am Monday to Friday). For the national level, we estimate that 593,141 unwarranted attendances were induced as urgent after-hours consultations in a single year. This corresponds to a national estimate of the total benefits paid for unwarranted demand of approximately $77 million. While deputising services have filled a short-fall in after-hours services, the overuse of urgent items has meant that that this has been achieved at a considerable cost to the Australian Government.
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