Introduction: Increasing numbers of hospital emergency department (ED) visits pose a challenge to healthsystems in many countries. This paper aims to examine emergency and urgent care systems, in sixcountries and to identify reform trends in response to current challenges.
Methods: Based on a literature review, six countries – Australia, Denmark, England, France, Germany andthe Netherlands – were selected for analysis. Information was collected using a standardized question-naire that was completed by national experts. These experts reviewed relevant policy documents andprovided information on (1) the organization and planning of emergency and urgent care, (2) paymentsystems for EDs and urgent primary care providers, and (3) reform initiatives.
Results: In the six countries four main reform approaches could be identified: (a) extending the availabil-ity of urgent primary care, (b) concentrating and centralizing the provision of urgent primary care, (c)improving coordination between urgent primary care and emergency care, and (d) concentrating emer-gency care provision at fewer institutions. The design of payment systems for urgent primary care andfor emergency care is often aligned to support these reforms.
Conclusion: Better guidance of patients and a reconfiguration of emergency and urgent care are the mostimportant measures taken to address the current challenges. Nationwide planning of all emergency careproviders, closely coordinated reforms and informing patients can support future reforms.