The Danish health system through an American lens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The organization and financing of the Danish health care system was evaluated within the framework of a SWOT analysis (analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) by a panel of five members with a background in health economics. The evaluation was based on reading an extensive amount of selected documents and literature on the Danish health care system and a 1-week visit to health care authorities, providers and key persons. The present paper includes the main findings by one of the panel members. Primary care is much more accessible in Denmark than the USA. A mixed capitation-fee-for-service method of paying generalist physicians in Denmark ensures that everyone has a primary care physician and generalist physicians are responsive to providing services quickly, typically same-day appointments. An organized off-hours service ensures accessible care 24 h a day, 7 days a week. Denmark has the highest public satisfaction with health care, reflecting the value placed on accessibility of primary care. Inpatient hospital care consumes a disproportionate share of Danish health expenditures. Global hospital budgets provide little incentive for hospital or surgical productivity. Long waits for hospitalization, especially surgical procedures and cancellation of scheduled surgery, are a source of patient dissatisfaction. Women's health, patient health risk counseling and coordination of preventive and primary care are major weaknesses of the Danish health system. Patients have a choice of primary care physician within a given geographic area and may go to a hospital of their choice. However, patient surveys and feedback are underdeveloped and very little effort has been made to make services responsive to patients' preferences. While innovations in electronic prescribing are noteworthy, further development of health information technology is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-132
Number of pages14
JournalHealth policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Financing
  • Organization
  • SWOT analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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