Future challenges such as an ageing population, more chronically ill patients and medical technology which is developing ever further are making robust, integrated primary care a necessity to keep the health care sector in its entirety accessible and affordable. The coherence of primary care is traditionally a weak spot because of differences in the scope and funding of the work of medical professional groups.
Lately this has been changing. A great variety of types of cooperation is emerging, both at practice level and at a level transcending individual practices. Studies within this line of research focus primarily on gaining an insight into the progress this process is making and into the necessary conditions for cooperation to emerge (or conversely, the conditions under which it will not emerge). With the primary sector cooperation monitor [monitor samenwerking in de eerste lijn] the developments in this field are being tracked carefully. The appearance of regional care providers [‘zorggroepen’] and the consequences of the introduction of integral costing will also be studied.
The next question is whether these forms of cooperation do indeed bring the expected added value in high-quality and efficient care for patients. Research would call for an integrated data structure, a national primary care information network. The proposed idea is to coordinate existing monodisciplinary health care registrations, such as the Netherlands Information Network of General Practice [LINH
] and the National Information Service for Allied Health Care [LIPZ
], to form one coherent entity. This way a patient’s progress through primary care can be tracked and related to organizational characteristics of the practices in which they receive health care.