Nadine Reibling, Claus Wendt
Gatekeeping and Provider Choice in OECD Healthcare Systems

Current Sociology, 2012: 60, Heft 4, S. 489-505

Gatekeeping and provider choice have become central in health policymaking within the last two decades. This article contributes to the debates in two ways: first, it provides an extended review of evidence on the impact of gatekeeping and provider choice on efficiency, costs, quality, equality and patient empowerment; and second, it empirically analyses regulations and identifies common trends in healthcare reforms in OECD countries since 1990. More than half of the countries analysed have established gatekeeping systems, while a smaller number provides free access to secondary care. The study discovers a trend towards strengthening gatekeeping regulations within free access countries. Free choice of provider is the standard in the OECD, where only a small number of countries restrict provider choice. The article identifies a diverging trend of reforms, with some traditionally restrictive countries offering more provider choice and other countries limiting the choice of providers as a result of managed care reforms.