Assessing primary care in Austria: room for improvement

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Abstract

Background.

There is emerging evidence that strong primary care achieves better health at lower costs. Although primary care can be measured, in many countries, including Austria, there is little understanding of primary care development.

Objective.

Assessing the primary care development in Austria.

Methods.

A primary care assessment tool developed by Barbara Starfield in 1998 was implemented in Austria. This tool defines 15 primary care characteristics and distinguishes between system and practice characteristics. Each characteristic was evaluated by six Austrian primary care experts and rated as 2 (high), 1 (intermediate) or 0 (low) points, respectively, to their primary care strength (maximum score: n = 30).

Results.

Austria received 7 out of 30 points; no characteristic was rated as ‘2’ but 8 were rated as ‘0’. Compared with the 13 previously assessed countries, Austria ranks 10th of 14 countries and is classified as a ‘low primary care’ country.

Conclusion.

This study provides the first evidence concerning primary care in Austria, benchmarking it as weak and in need of development. The practicable application of an existing assessment tool can be encouraging for other countries to generate evidence about their primary care system as well.

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