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BWB publishes second interim report on “Health services in rural areas”

The Austrian Federal Competition Authority (BWB) has been analysing the Austrian healthcare market since the beginning of 2017. Following the first interim report on “The Austrian Pharmacy Market”, which was published in May 2018, it now presents its second report, this time dedicated to “Health services in rural areas”.

Sector Inquiry Health

As part of its sector inquiry, the BWB is analysing the competitive conditions on certain submarkets of the healthcare market. The inquiry is based on information received from market participants, academic literature, as well as experience reports and investigation findings of other national competition authorities. Additionally, businesses, stakeholder groups and other institutions that are engaged in the healthcare market have been interviewed in depth.

Second interim report “Health services in rural areas” published

The second report analyses the healthcare market in rural areas. It highlights the challenges faced in this submarket and offers possible solutions from a competition point of view. The aim is to provide market participants with more leeway, and to ensure that patients are well cared for.

Director General Thanner: “Healthcare services should be effective and accessible to each and every one of us, and we must make sure that this is the case. We cannot have a situation in which access to medical services is restricted in rural areas because of artificial barriers to competition. Patients should have choice, and medical services and medicines must be rapidly available whenever they are needed. The current laws make it impossible in certain areas of Austria to provide effective and competitive medical services.”

The second interim report covers the following topics:

  1. Overview of regional healthcare services (pharmacies and general practitioners) in Austria
  2. Shortage of doctors in rural areas and health policy measures
  3. Dispensing doctors
  4. Primary healthcare centres, employment of doctors and teaching surgeries
  5. Proposals from the Austrian Chamber of Pharmacists for updating the Austrian Pharmacy Act

First-time overview maps of the Austrian health care

The BWB provides for the first time several topographic maps in order to get a broader overview of the current health care situation in Austria.

Example: Overview of dispensing (red) and non-dispensing doctors (blue)-

Some of the BWB’s recommendations

  • Improving the status of and support for general practitioners (training, financial incentives etc.)
  • Matching the authorisation requirements for doctors’ dispensaries to those for community pharmacies taking account of the needs of rural areas
  • Advancing primary healthcare facilities in order to provide as comprehensive a service as possible
  • Modern regulations for mobile dispensing units (that are subject to approval) as well as branch pharmacies

With this second report, the BWB aims to initiate a general discussion on increased competition in the rural healthcare market.

Since the healthcare market can be divided into various submarkets, the BWB focused on specific areas for its competitive analysis. These were areas with regard to which BWB had received complaints about anti-competitive behaviour in the past.

The BWB provides an executive summary in English. A translation of the whole interim report will follow. 

Further interim reports to follow.