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Health Policy. 2004 Sep;69(3):317-27.

Trading patients. Lessons from Scandinavia.

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Centre for Health Administration, University of Oslo, Rikshospitalet, NO-0027 Oslo, Norway.


The next few decades will bring about more trade in services, among them health care. This paper describes a recent project on cross-border trading of patients initiated by the Norwegian parliament (The Patient Bridge). This health policy reform met some resistance among hospital physicians. However, patients were willing to participate if being properly informed and supported by local health care workers. The Patient Bridge turned out to be a relatively expensive project partly because of the transaction costs involved (transportation and escort) and partly because of high treatment costs. Excessive treatment costs were a result of insufficient cost-consciousness in the purchasing organization. The Patient Bridge revealed large price differentials not only between Norwegian and foreign hospitals, but also between hospitals abroad, even within the same country. This finding points to the possibilities of reaching mutual gains from trading patients across borders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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