Is the role as gatekeeper still feasible? A survey among Dutch general practitioners

Fam Pract. 2014 Oct;31(5):538-44. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmu046. Epub 2014 Aug 18.


Introduction: In the 2012 International Health Policy Survey by the Commonwealth Fund, 57% of Dutch GPs indicated that Dutch patients receive too much health care. This is an unexpected finding, given the clear gatekeeper role of Dutch GPs and recent efforts strengthening this role.

Objectives: The study aims to explore where perceived overuse of care prevails and to identify factors associated with too much care at the entry point of Dutch health care.

Method: An American survey exploring perceptions of the amount of care among primary care providers was modified for relevance to the Dutch health system. We further included additional factors possibly related to overuse based on 12 interviews with Dutch GPs. The survey was sent to a random sample of 600 GPs.

Results: Dutch GPs (N = 157; response rate 26.2%) indicated that patients receive (much) too much care in general hospitals, primary care, GP cooperatives as well as private clinics. The Dutch responding GPs showed a relatively demand-satisfying attitude, which contributed to the delivery of too much care, often leading to deviation from guidelines and professional norms. The increasing availability of diagnostic facilities was identified as an additional factor contributing to the provision of unnecessary care. Finally, funding gaps between primary care and hospitals impede cooperation and coordination, provoking unnecessary care.

Conclusion: Our results--most notably regarding the demand-satisfying attitude of responding GPs--call into question the classical view of the guidance and gatekeeper role of GPs in the Dutch health care system.

Keywords: Attitude of health personnel; GPs; physician’s practice patterns; primary care physicians; primary health care; referral and consultation..

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Cost Control
  • Diagnostic Services
  • Female
  • Gatekeeping*
  • General Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Misuse*
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Patient Preference
  • Perception
  • Physician's Role
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires