Case-studies of displacement effects in Dutch hospital care

Joost Johan Godert Wammes*, Geert Frederix, Paulien Govaert, Domino Determann, Silvia Evers, Aggie Paulus, Niek Stadhouders, Patrick Jeurissen, Wija Oortwijn, Eddy M. M. Adang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background Under a constrained health care budget, cost-increasing technologies may displace funds from existing health services. However, it is unknown what services are displaced and how such displacement takes place in practice. The aim of our study was to investigate how the Dutch hospital sector has dealt with the introduction of cost-increasing health technologies, and to present evidence of the relative importance of three main options to deal with cost-increases in health care: increased spending, increased efficiency, or displacement of other services. Methods We conducted six case-studies and interviewed 84 professionals with various roles and responsibilities (practitioners, heads of clinical department, board of directors, insurers, and others) to investigate how they experienced decision making in response to the cost pressure of cost-increasing health technologies. Transcripts were analyzed thematically in Atlas.ti on the basis of an item list. Results Direct displacement of high-value care due to the introduction of new technologies was not observed; respondents primarily pointed to increased spending and efficiency measures to accommodate the introduction of the cost-increasing technologies. Respondents found it difficult to identify the opportunity costs; partly due to limited transparency in the internal allocation of funds within a hospital. Furthermore, respondents experienced the entry of new technologies and cost-containment as two parallel processes that are generally not causally linked: cost containment was experienced as a permanent issue to level costs and revenues, independent from entry of new technologies. Furthermore, the way of financing was found important in displacement in the Netherlands, especially as there is a separate budget for expensive drugs. This budget pressure was found to be reallocated horizontally across departments, whereas the budget pressure of other services is primarily reallocated vertically within departments or divisions. Respondents noted that hospitals have reacted to budget pressures primarily through a narrowing in the portfolio of their services, and a range of (other) efficiency measures. The board of directors is central in these processes, insurers are involved only to a limited extent. Conclusions Our findings indicate that new technologies were generally accommodated by greater efficiency and increased spending, and that hospitals sought savings or efficiency measures in response to cumulative cost pressures rather than in response to single cost-increasing technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number263
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2020


  • Displacement
  • Opportunity cost
  • Priority setting
  • Rationing
  • Basic benefit package
  • Innovation
  • Health technology assessment

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