Independent Treatment Centres Are Not a Guarantee for High Quality and Low Healthcare Prices in The Netherlands – A Study of 5 Elective Surgeries

Document Type : Original Article


1 IQ healthcare, Radboud University and Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

2 Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, The Hague, The Netherlands


Independent treatment centres (ITCs) are a growing phenomenon in many healthcare systems. Focus factory theory predicts that ITCs provide high quality healthcare with low prices, through specialisation, high-volume and routine. This study examines if ITC care outperforms general hospital (GH) care within a regulated competition system in the Netherlands, by focusing on differences in healthcare quality and price.

The cross-sectional study combined publicly available quality data, list prices and insurer contracts for 2017. Clinical outcomes of 5 elective surgeries (total hip and knee replacement, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), cataract and carpal tunnel surgeries) were compared using zero-or-one inflated beta-regressions, corrected for underlying structural factors (ie, volume of care, process and structure indicators, and chain affiliation). Furthermore, price differences between ITCs and GHs were examined using ordinary least squares regressions. Lastly, we analysed quality of care in relation to the number of insurance contracts of the 4 largest Dutch insurance companies using ordered logistic regressions.

Quality differences between ITCs and GHs were found to be inconsistent across procedures. No facility type performed better overall. There were no differences exhibited in the list prices between ITCs and GHs. No consistent relationship was found between the underlying factors and quality or price, in different procedures and time. We found no indication for selective contracting based on quality within the ITC sector.

This study found no evidence that ITCs outperform GHs on quality or price. This evidence does not support the focus factory theory. The substantial practice variation in quality of care may justify more evidence-based contracting within the market for elective surgery



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Volume 9, Issue 9
September 2020
Pages 380-389
  • Receive Date: 02 April 2019
  • Revise Date: 17 December 2019
  • Accept Date: 17 December 2019
  • First Publish Date: 01 September 2020