Health policies and data

Denmark: good hospitals but primary health care must improve


16/04/2013 - The Danish central government and regions are leading international efforts to reform hospital systems, improving quality and safety by gathering specialists into major hospitals and closing smaller ones.


Denmark has also pioneered registers that track the care patients receive across multiple health services and established a sophisticated system for the accreditation of hospitals, with good results. Fewer people die within 30 days after admission for a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction) than anywhere else in the OECD (2.3 per 100 patients, compared to 5.4 across the OECD) and the number of people dying within 30 days after admission for a stroke (2.6 per 100 patients) is half the OECD average.


The country should now focus on modernising its primary care sector to deal with the rising demands of chronic disease and a leaner hospital sector, according to the OECD’s Health Care Quality Review of Denmark.


Fewer hospitals will mean that more patients must  be treated in the community, particularly as demand swells from an ageing population. Better primary health care will also cut the high rate of hospitalisation for conditions such poorly controlled diabetes and other chronic conditions.


The continuity of care is a particular problem. Today, clinical records are not shared widely within primary care services and across secondary and long-term care facilities. There is more scope for health professionals to work in teams and for doctors to focus  on patients’ complex care needs by shifting less skilled tasks to other professionals.. Denmark can look to England, Israel and Australia for innovations in these areas.


The OECD Health Care Quality Review of Denmark also recommends:


  • Tracking medical staffs’  performance in hospitals, linking it to service improvement and offering a new programme of professional development.


  • Expanding extensive data linkages between primary care and other health care sectors and developing clinical guidelines and standards related to patients with multiple chronic conditions.


  • Surveying the impact of hospital reforms on patients’geographical access to hospital care; and considering innovative cost-sharing mechanisms to encourage healthy behaviour and prevention.


Journalists can find the report’s main findings and recommendations at The full report will be available on 30 April 2013 at the same webpage.


For further information about OECD’s Health Care Quality Review of Denmark  please contact Mark Pearson in OECD’s Health Division: or by phone + 33 1 45 24 92 69; Francesca Colombo (, tel + 33 1 45 24 93 60) or Ian Forde (, tel + 33 1 45 24 81 24).


OECD Reviews of Health Care Quality ( examine what works and what doesn’t in countries, benchmarking their efforts and providing advice on reforms to improve quality of health care. The fourth report, Quality of Health Care in Turkey, will be published in June 2013. The country reviews will be followed by a final summary report on the lessons and good practices relevant to all governments. 


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