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Do the waiting-time guarantees in the Scandinavian countries empower patients?
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Health Services Research. (Health Services Research)
2010 (English)In: International Journal of Public Sector Management, ISSN 0951-3558, Vol. 23, no 4, 353-363 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]


This paper aims to analyse waiting-time guarantees in the three Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) and to assess whether their current policy designs have strengthened the role of patients in their healthcare systems. 


The paper compares official documents and legislation in the three countries. The main findings are that waiting-time guarantees have generally empowered patients in the Scandinavian health systems. This empowerment is stronger in Denmark and Norway, where formal waiting-time guarantee rules are applied, than in Sweden, where the guarantee is based on the “softer” regulatory instrument of agreements. While patients are formally empowered in all three countries, and care providers are gradually adjusting to this situation, it is also clear that the practical conditions for empowering patients are not fully in place. The issue of information dissemination is particularly important.

Research limitations/implications

Assessments are based on current regulatory configurations in the three countries, where the process of adapting and implementing the policies is ongoing. These assessments are based on a comparative analysis of the institutional designs. There is no detailed information on how patients use the waiting-time guarantee.

Practical implications

It is important to consider carefully the information that patients have available in exercising their right to choose healthcare as well as the incentives for providing such information to them.


This is the first systematic comparison of waiting-time guarantees in the three countries. It is a starting-point for further research on the introduction of waiting-time guarantees in public health systems. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 23, no 4, 353-363 p.
Keyword [en]
Waiting lists, health services, patients, empowerment, Scandinavia
Research subject
Health Care Research
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-103113DOI: 10.1108/09513551011047242OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-103113DiVA: diva2:217447
Available from: 2009-05-14 Created: 2009-05-14 Last updated: 2010-06-14Bibliographically approved

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