The Danish hospital sector has undergone significant transformations since the implementation of the structural reform of the Danish healthcare system in 2007, which paved the way for a more efficient, modernised, and patient-centred hospital sector.
The 2007 reform centralised Denmark’s healthcare administration by reducing the number of regions from 14 to 5, each responsible for, among other things, providing hospital treatment within its jurisdiction. This change allowed for better resource allocation and streamlined decision-making processes, ensuring that hospital services could be more efficiently managed and optimised.
Around 90 per cent of all treatments provided in hospitals are classified as standard hospital treatments that can usually be provided at a hospital in the patient’s own region. Specialised hospital treatment accounts for about 10 per cent of all hospital services and includes highly specialised services. While the regions are responsible for the planning of standard hospital services, the Danish Health Authority is responsible for planning the overall distribution of specialised hospital services. The Danish Health Authority defines and allocates specialist functions among hospitals in close cooperation with medical associations and the regions.
A key component of the structural reform was the modernisation of the Danish hospital infrastructure, with a focus on constructing new hospitals and upgrading existing facilities – the so-called “super hospital programme”, which included 16 new hospital projects. This provided an opportunity for a large-scale modernisation by merging specialised functions into fewer and larger units to ensure access to state-of-the-art health services, uniform treatment and improving quality across the entire healthcare system.
The Danish healthcare system adopted a more multidisciplinary approach to treatment and care, promoting collaboration among various healthcare professionals to deliver the best possible outcomes for patients, and emphasizing a shift towards patient-centred care. Thus, the new healthcare landscape relies more on primary care, municipal services and the patient’s own resources and reflects the increase in outpatient treatment, which reduces the need for hospital beds.
Merging hospitals into fewer units with large population bases also supports the development of highly specialised professional environments for medical research and training e.g., in university hospitals. Denmark has five university hospitals: Aarhus University Hospital, Aalborg University Hospital, Odense University Hospital, Zealand University Hospital and Copenhagen University Hospital, which mainly consists of ‘Rigshospitalet’. They collaborate with universities on research, training of health personnel, etc.
Strongholds within Hospitals
Denmark’s focus on hospital logistics has been instrumental in achieving a significant increase in productivity.