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The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Both of the authors conceived and designed the study; HOB developed the questionnaire, collected and analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. LOH assisted in writing the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Parts of New Public Management-reforms of the public sector depend on introduction of market-like mechanisms to manage the sector, like free choice of hospital. However, patients may delegate the choice of hospital to agents like general practitioners (GPs). We have investigated which factors Danish GPs reported as decisive for their choice of hospital on behalf of patients, and their utilisation of formal and informal data sources when they chose a hospital on behalf of patients.
Retrospective questionnaire study of all of the 474 GPs practising in three counties which constituted a single uptake area. Patients were free to choose a hospital in another county in the country. The GPs were asked about responsibility for choice of the latest three patients referred by the GP to hospital; which of 16 factors influenced the choice of hospital; which of 15 sources of information about clinical quality at various hospitals/departments were considered relevant, and how often were six sources of information about waiting time utilised.
Fifty-one percent (240 GPs) filled in and returned the questionnaire. One hundred and eighty-three GPs (76%) reported that they perceived that they chose the hospital on behalf of the latest referred patient. Short distance to hospital was the most common reason for choice of hospital.
The most frequently used source of information about quality at hospital departments was anecdotal reports from patients referred previously, and the most important source of information about waiting time was the hospitals’ letters of confirmation of referrals.
In an area with free choice of public hospital most GPs perceived that they chose the hospital on behalf of patients. Short distance to hospital was the factor which most often decided the GPs’ choice of hospital on behalf of patients. GPs attached little weight to official information on quality and service (waiting time) at hospitals or departments, focusing instead on informal sources like feedback from patients and colleagues and their experience with cooperation with the department or hospital.